Austin Ludwig is only a junior in high school, but already he has earned a spot among such top writers, artists, and visionaries as Sylvia Plath, Andy Warhol, and Robert Redford.
Ludwig, 16, is among the winners of the 2014 Boston Globe Scholastic Art and Writing Awards, the regional division of a prestigious national program that recognizes the creative talents of students in grades 7 through 12. The program has recognized young writers and artists — including Plath, Warhol, and Redford — for more than 90 years, since 1923. The regional Globe competition, this year presented by the School of the Museum of Fine Arts, is in its 64th year.
For students, the program is more than just an opportunity to earn scholarships and recognition.
“This has meant a lot to me,” said Ludwig, who attends Wellesley High School. “I’ve gained a lot of confidence from winning.”
Ludwig received a Gold Key award, the highest honor in the competition, for his submission, a music video titled “God Only Knows,” that he shot and edited. The video features Ludwig’s friend Tray Ayala, who goes by “Trama,” performing an original rap with beats composed by Eric Lynch. Ayala and Lynch, as well as Eric Siber, who also helped with the video, all graduated from Wellesley High School in 2013.
“God Only Knows” was shot at various Boston-area locations, including the neighborhood where Trama grew up, the church where he found his faith, and the cemetery where his relatives are buried. Ludwig chose to integrate shots of Ayala at these locations with clips of natural and man-made disasters to emphasize the emotion of the rapper’s lyrics.
“Trama and I were listening to the song and thought we could get some really great visuals with it,” said Ludwig, who wants to attend film school in the future. “I was thinking of tragedies that could be tied into the lyrics.”
Ludwig’s video was one of nearly 15,000 works — more than 1,300 pieces of writing and 13,000-plus artworks – submitted in 28 different categories by more than 8,000 students. Eric Thompson, vice president of the School of the Museum of Fine Arts, said these high submission numbers make this regional competition the largest in the United States.
Regional winners are bestowed Gold Keys, Silver Keys, or honorable mentions. Gold Key winners, including Ludwig, move on to the national competition in New York City. National winners will be announced March 17.
Ludwig is also among the five regional nominees for the American Visions award at the national level. Nominated American Visions pieces – for artistic works – and American Voices pieces – for written works – display not only originality and technical skill, but also make a larger statement about teenagers today.
Other local American Visions nominees include Kayla Burgess of Notre Dame Academy, Eugene Kuznetsov of Sharon High School, and Kimberly Cosgrove and Alexandra Ellerkamp, both of Masconomet Regional High School.
American Voices nominees include Sophia Campbell of Lexington High School, Yiqin Fu of Milton Academy, Michael Luchini of The Governor’s Academy in Byfield, Robert Malley of The Waring School in Beverly, and Talin Tahajian of Belmont High School.
Tahajian, also a Gold Key recipient, has been writing poetry for years, always carrying around her notebook to jot down words or images that strike her.
“It’s been a whirlwind,” said Tahajian, 17.
The phrase “summer squash” led her to write two award-winning poems. She spent last summer in Gambier, Ohio, for a two-week workshop at Kenyon College, where she first wrote “Farm Boys” and later “Corn Stalks.” The poems tackle adolescence and the tension it brings.
“These two pieces were about developing identity in the face of intergenerational conflict,” said Tahajian. “It’s based on my own experiences, and inspired by events I’ve seen happen. All of our writing is informed by our own lives.”
Tahajian is a poetry editor for the Adroit Journal, an online publication run primarily by college students. She had submitted “Farm Boys” to Adroit, and from there, was encouraged to join the staff.
“It’s amazing what this generation can do,” said Tahajian, who will be studying English at the University of Cambridge this fall.
More than 800 pieces of Gold Key-winning artwork are on display at Boston City Hall through March 28.Eryn Carlson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Alex Stills can be reached at email@example.com.