When Julia Paccone, a Manchester Essex Regional High School junior, submitted her fashion work to the 2013 Boston Globe Scholastic Art & Writing Awards, she wasn’t confident it would win. But after entering pieces the previous year without success, she was ecstatic to find out this year that her garment “Organic Glamour” had received a top honor and was nominated for a national award.
Paccone, who was inspired to try a “full-on fashion” technique, said her teacher suggested that she submit her favorite piece from this year: a textured dress with sweetheart neckline, made of environmentally friendly and recycled materials such as seagrass, hemp rope, rug pads, and clothes hangers.
“I was insanely surprised when I found out,” said Paccone. “It was definitely a confidence booster and it inspired me to do more work [like this] in the future.”
This year’s competition marks the 90th anniversary for the national program and the 63d for the local contest. Locally, 7,768 students, in grades 7 through 12, submitted 13,776 images of student art and 1,559 pieces of student writing, both individually and within portfolios.
Panels of three individuals were selected by the advisory board to judge 15 art classifications and 10 writing genres, from painting to drawing and short story to journalism.
Local program director John Michael Gray said this competition has been an exciting year for the number of student entries.
“Each year, we’ve gone up a little bit but, this year, we’ve greatly increased the number of art entries and more than doubled the number of writing entries,” said Gray.
Student winners received Gold Keys, Silver Keys, or honorable mentions. All Gold Key works, including Paccone’s, moved on to the national competition in New York City. Gray noted that Massachusetts consistently ranks in the top group of national winners.
Locally, five pieces of art and five works of writing are also selected for the national American Vision and American Voices competitions. Judges in New York choose one artist and one writer from the state to receive recognition from the Alliance for Young Artists and Writers Inc.
Olivia Laughlin’s story “The Raft of Pride,” a flash fiction piece about bullying, is a Gold Key Winner and American Voices nominee. She says the topic “hits close to home.”
“I’ve been bullied myself, which has led me to want to stand up for people who are being bullied,” said Laughlin, a sophomore at Masconomet Regional High School. “I wanted to change something in the reader because I don’t think there is enough perspective out there about how it feels to stand up to a bully and change a victim’s life.”
The local American Visions nominees in addition to Paccone are Yook Jae Kim from Belmont High School, Renata Watson from Cambridge Rindge and Latin, Chungha Lim from Walnut Hill School, and Rita Ding from Masconomet Regional High School.
The American Voices Nominees are Laughlin, Isabel Ruehl from Buckingham Browne & Nichols School, Jessica Blau from Milton Academy, Imogene Robinson from The Governor’s Academy, and Mairead Blatner from John F. Kennedy Middle School.
Portfolios from one senior art student and one senior writing student are also awarded a $2,000 scholarship from the Globe. This year’s recipients are Philipa Gonatas from Concord-Carlisle High School, for art, and Osaremen Okolo from Milton Academy, for writing.
Matt Costas, a junior at the Commonwealth School in Boston who received a Gold Key for photography, says getting recognition for a hobby he is passionate about is “such a great payoff.”
“I’ve taken photography for four years and this is my first real award, so it’s definitely cool to have something to show for,” he said.
Currently, all Silver and Gold Key award-winning entries are on display in the State Transportation Building, 10 Park Plaza, Boston. The exhibit is free, and open to the public Monday-Friday 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sundays noon to 4 p.m.
Katy Rushlau can be reached at