Scholastic Art & Writing Awards

Top winners honored at Carnegie Hall

  • Grades: 3–5, 6–8

For the old question, "How do you get to Carnegie Hall?" the answer has always been "Practice, practice, practice." But for three extraordinary teen winners of the 87th annual Scholastic Art and Writing Award, the answer was clear and inspiring: "Believe in yourself."

More than 600 award winners were honored last week at Carnegie Hall in New York City, one of the most prestigious concert halls in the world. Ceremonies included a performance by singer/songwriter Jill Sobule, while sculptor Tom Otterness presented conceptual artist Mel Bochner with an "Alumni Achievement Award." Otterness, who won an Art and Writing award as a teen, received the achievement award last year.

Max Mikulecky, 18, from Overland Park, Kansas won the Portfolio Award—the highest honor—for photography. His photo series of broken, rusty, cars transforms old, junky automobiles into photographic gems.

Photography seems to be genetic in Mikulecky's family. His father, grandfather, and uncle are all pros behind a camera. Receiving this award made him feel "electric,” he told the Scholastic Kids Press Corps.

"I can't even describe it," Mikulecky said.

Rita Feinstein, 17, a student from Glorieta, New Mexico, won the Portfolio Award for writing despite having quit high school, where she says she always felt she didn't fit in.

"I was so depressed, I stopped writing," Feinstein said. "I didn't have any friends."

With her parents' permission, Feinstein left high school and enrolled in a local Community College, where her writing flourished. Her moving story, "Tomato Touch," reads like a published novel.

kid reporter with art and writing award recipient
Kid Reporter Grace McManus interviews Gold Medal Portfolio winner Sean Pettiford backstage at the Scholastic Art & Writing Awards. Pettiford was one of 15 young artists and writers to receive the top distinction. (Photo: Scholastic/Stuart Ramson)


Sean Pettiford, a 17-year-old high school senior from Dayton, Ohio, won the Portfolio Award for sculpting. His entry was a collection of simple—and simply beautiful—pottery of round shapes and subtle colors.

"When I found out the news about the award, I was speechless," said Pettiford, who started sculpting in eighth grade after encouragement by his teacher. Even though Sean's pottery looks like it belongs in a museum, he doesn't want to pursue sculpting as a career.

"I really want to design cars and manufacture and engineer how they work, like better economical vehicles," Pettiford said. As a child he collected Hot Wheels cars, which were his "favorite toy ever."

All three of these winners offered advice for kids wanting to pursue their own artistic dreams.

"If you know an older artist, listen to them," Pettiford said. "They know what's out there for you."

Mikulecky encourages kids not to be afraid to fail. The first time he picked up a camera he was in fifth grade.

"I shot roll after roll of completely blank film," he says. "I got all black pictures, not even visible pictures, they were so bad."

If you want to be a photographer, he says, "Keep a camera with you at all times, just shoot as much as you can."

If you want to be a writer, Feinstein suggests you "Do it for the love of it." Young writers should not focus on becoming famous.

"If you start out thinking, 'Oh, I gotta get this published,' then your soul won't come through in your writing,” she said. "So write for yourself. That's the most important thing."

Practice, practice, practice, doesn't hurt either!

Check out the video interview of sculptor Tom Otterness by Kid Reporter Grace McManus.

For more information on the other winners of the Scholastic Art and Writing Awards, check out the awards website. You can also find out how to apply for next year's awards!

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The Scholastic Kids Press Corps is a team of 32 student reporters who report "news for kids, by kids." Sports, politics, and entertainment are among the topics they cover.