WAHS Students Take Top Honors in Arts and Writing Contest


By Rebecca Schmitz

(L-R) Western students Jacob Chang-Rascle, Laura Grice, and Mary Hilker were recognized for their accomplishments in the visual and literary arts.
(L-R) Western students Jacob Chang-Rascle, Laura Grice, and Mary Hilker were recognized for their accomplishments in the visual and literary arts.

Three Western Albemarle students have been recognized for their artistic talents, earning regional honors in the national Scholastic Arts and Writing Awards competition. Junior Laura Grice was awarded the Gold Key award for her work in ceramics and a Silver Key award for drawing. She also earned an honorable mention in printmaking. Sophomore Jacob Chang-Rascle won two Gold Key awards and an honorable mention in photography. Mary Hilker, a junior, impressed judges with her writing, earning a Silver Key in Flash Fiction (stories with fewer than 350 words) and an honorable mention for her poetry. Gold Key winners will be judged at the national level next.

As one looks over these award-winning pieces, it’s hard to believe they aren’t the work of professionals. All three students say they plan to pursue careers related to the arts.

Laura Grice’s Gold Key-winning piece is a sleek ceramic cup, with indentations to create interest and rich greenish-purple tint. She also produced a stark, haunting drawing of a winter scene, featuring a person dwarfed by soaring, snow-covered mountains. Her printmaking piece, which won an honorable mention, is a highly-detailed aerial scene of buildings in New York City. She created it using a photo lightbox for tracing, and etching tools.

Chang-Rascle’s Gold Key-winning piece is a vibrant close-up of a water droplet captured at the moment it forms. His second Gold Key photo, created with infrared photography, is a scene of a majestic tree overlooking a snowy cemetery, with mountains rearing up in the background. He received an honorable mention for Impending Storm, an infrared photo capturing a lone person in a grassy, snow-dotted field clutching a red umbrella. Chang-Rascle was also awarded the Grand Prize in the 2016 Virginia Film Festival’s ACTION! High School Director Competition for his film Incubus, and was a runner-up for his film Time Flies. Incubus, about a boy and his father on an archeological assignment that turns into something more sinister, is also a finalist in the 2016 DC Independent Film Festival and in the Texas Independent Film Festival at Texas A & M University.

It’s clear Mary Hilker has a knack for putting feelings into words. She adopts a melancholy tone in her Silver Key-winning flash fiction piece as she elegantly describes a dream that she is said is “kind of about accepting things as they happen in life.”

The Scholastic Arts and Writing Awards, founded in 1923, are held each year for students nationwide in grades 7 through 12. A panel of judges at the regional level evaluates each student’s work for its originality, technical skill, and emergence of a personal vision or voice. (Western students are part of the southeast region, which stretches to Georgia.) Works that advance to the national level are judged by a panel of renowned talents, many of whom are alumni of the awards. Past jurors include Langston Hughes and Andy Warhol, and more recently Lena Dunham, David Sedaris, and writer Nikki Giovanni.

Laura Grice was selected as a Rising Star for the Piedmont Council for the Arts and has had her work featured in Somerset Studios, a magazine featuring outstanding handcrafted works of art. Her handmade journals are displayed at the Crozet Artisan Depot.


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