"George," mixed media by Sonja Bales
"George," mixed media by Sonja Bales
Thirty-four St. Mary's Academy students from throughout Portland, Tigard, Lake Oswego, West Linn, Vancouver and Camas have been honored with regional Scholastic Art & Writing Awards. St. Mary's garnered 66 art accolades for 19 students and 22 writing awards for 15 students.

Four writing entries and 24 pieces of artwork from St. Mary's students received the highest distinction of a gold key. Those submissions will go on to be judged at the national level. The art will be on display through Feb. 22 at the Pacific Northwest College of Art, 1241 N.W. Johnson St., Portland.

Overall, 46 St. Mary's students entered 158 individual pieces and four portfolios in the 2013 Scholastic Art & Writing Awards. Visual art and English department faculty members were pleased to see so many of their students rewarded for their talent and dedication to their craft.

"What I love about the Scholastic Art Awards is the recognition and encouragement supporting young artists. That praise can make all the difference for the career direction of a teenager," said art teacher Kathy Mitchell.

The Scholastic Art & Writing Awards are one of the country's most prestigious and long-standing programs recognizing youth. Past winners include famed artists Andy Warhol, Philip Pearlstein and Cy Twombly and writers Sylvia Plath, Truman Capote and Joyce Carol Oates.

"We are thrilled to see our talented student writers take positive risks in their writing and find such well-deserved recognition. From journalism and creative non-fiction to short story and poetry, their work is astounding," said English Department Chair Sara Salvi. "These 15 girls are the most award winners we have ever had in the writing portion of this competition; in fact, it is the highest number of winners from a single school in all of Oregon."

This year's winners combine both Scholastic Art & Writing Awards veterans and students new to the competition.

Last year, St. Mary's Academy student Lillie Meyer, now a junior, received a silver medal nationally for her digital photography. Regionally, she received three gold keys, a silver key and four honorable mentions.

This year, Meyer garnered seven gold keys in the regional competition in the photography and digital arts categories, as well as one silver key and one honorable mention.

Meyer, a 16-year-old Vancouver resident, attended an intensive photography workshop at the Cornish College of the Arts in Seattle over the summer. While there she enjoyed exploring different cameras and techniques for taking and processing photographs.

She also has found great success taking photos with her iPhone. One of her gold key-winning pictures, "Twist," was taken with her smartphone camera from the window of an airplane as she was flying into Amsterdam through fog.

The positive feedback and awards her photos are receiving is encouraging, said Meyer, adding that she plans to continue the pursuit.

"It's something I like doing and something I can constantly improve upon," she said.

This was freshman Sonja Bales' first time entering an art competition at the high-school level, and she was excited to learn that all six ceramic and mixed-media pieces she submitted received awards.

Bales won four gold keys, one silver key and one honorable mention. Her favorite of her gold key winners is a mixed-media piece titled "George." Bales created a mounted "butterfly" out of a Nevada road map painted with acrylics. She calls it vegan lepidoptery.
Seeing her work on display at the Pacific Northwest College of Art was a surreal moment for Bales and a confidence boost.

"It makes me think that I might want art to have a more prominent place in my life besides as a hobby," said the 15-year-old Northeast Portland resident, adding that she's already thinking ahead to the 2014 competition and planning an animation entry.

St. Mary's writing winners, including senior Catherine Murphy, are just as thrilled by the recognition.

Murphy, a 17-year-old Northwest Portland, was one of only four students in the state to win a gold key in the writing portfolio category. Another of the four is St. Mary's senior Julia Renner, who took Salvi's creative writing class with Murphy.

"It felt really exciting and amazing. I am honored to be one of those four students," Murphy said.

Murphy's winning portfolio consisted of four poems and a memoir titled "Coming Home." In her memoir, Murphy, who was adopted from China, writes about a trip she took in the summer of 2010 to visit the orphanage and foster home where she stayed during her first year of life. She previously won a 2012 silver key and an award from the Garaventa Center for Catholic Intellectual Life and American Culture at the University of Portland for "Coming Home.