The creative process often referred to as thinking outside the box led Henrico County teen Hallie Wilson to think about what happens inside a box — specifically, a television, computer, microwave and other machines — and that creativity has earned her one of the highest national honors for youth art.
Wilson, a 17-year-old senior at Henrico High School’s Center for the Arts, is one of 16 high school students nationwide to earn a 2019 Scholastic Art & Writing gold medal — the highest award offered by the nearly century-old program. Her portfolio, called “Technology People,” features eight wood and clay sculptures depicting the figurative goings-on inside such machines as computers, printers, televisions and more.
The award comes with a $10,000 scholarship.
Wilson’s work was considered from more than 300,000 entries submitted by students in grades 7-12 for works of poetry, photography, sculpture, humor, editorial cartoons and video game design. The top 16 winners are broken into two categories, with eight recognized for art and the other eight for writing. Their works are judged on originality, technical skill and emergence of their personal vision and voice.
The Scholastic awards, presented by the nonprofit Alliance for Young Artists & Writers, includes a trip to New York City this summer, where Wilson will be honored during a ceremony at Carnegie Hall. Her work will also be part of the Art.Write.Now 2019 National Exhibition from May 31 to June 8 at the Sheila C. Johnson Design Center at Parsons School of Design at The New School in New York, as well as the Pratt Institute’s Pratt Manhattan Gallery.
Wilson talked about her experience last month as she showed off her work during class.
Each sculpture within “Technology People” depicts a machine that’s slowly being phased out of daily life as technology advances all around us, she explained. There’s a sewing machine, television, record player, microwave, printer, lamp, blender and computer.
In the microwave, for example, a little clay figure roasts food over a campfire with a pile of chopped wood at the ready nearby. Inside the sewing machine is a little figure putting together pieces of fabric.
Her idea stemmed from a school project assigned last year that prompted students to use a box in a creative way. There were no other requirements for the box project; the sky was the limit. Wilson said she recalled a moment last year when she looked at the large color printer in the art room, and noted how funny it would be if little people were working inside, furiously painting the pages as they came out of the printer. It sparked an idea.
Her “Printer People” box was the first one she did, and it features small clay people painting sheets of paper before pushing them out of the printer. That, by itself, won a Scholastic gold award last year, which led Wilson to consider doing more. She decided to enter a portfolio and then set out to make the remaining seven pieces.
The point is to “bring more awareness to the fact that technology is taking over, that we’re losing things,” she said. For example, where real musicians used to be hired for parties and special occasions, “now we just plug our phone into the speaker.”
Henrico art teacher Mary Scurlock said she had an inclination that Wilson could win a top award once her single piece — the printer — won gold last year.
Scurlock called Wilson “innovative” and “very driven.”
“She’s probably one of the most disciplined students I’ve had,” she said. “Talent ... is a big part of that [but] the folks that shine the most are the ones who have strong work ethics and that’s Hallie.”
Wilson is the second student from the Henrico specialty arts center to receive the highest Scholastic award. In 2014, then-senior Ellie Braun earned a gold medal and scholarship.
The Scholastic Art & Writing Awards started in 1923 to recognize young artistic talent and today remains among the most prestigious art recognition programs. Former recipients over the years include Andy Warhol, Robert Redford, Sylvia Plath, Stephen King and many others.
Wilson wasn’t the only area student recognized by Scholastic. Richmond teen and Appomattox Regional Governor’s School student Isabella Newman was one of six students nationally to earn a Civic Expression Award, which comes with a $1,000 scholarship.
After graduation, Wilson will attend Lehigh University in Pennsylvania, where she’ll study art and continue swimming, both things she’s been doing since she was young. She said she’d like to be a college art professor.
Art, she said, has always been part of her life.
“I really like using my hands [and] I think that’s why I’m drawn to sculpture so much,” Wilson said. When she’s in that creative zone, “I feel at home.”