Vinny Deoliveira and Hannah Richter of Miami were named national Portfolio Gold medalists in the 2015 Scholastic Art and Writing Awards.
The nonprofit Alliance for Young Artists and Writers received more than 300,000 submissions from students in grades 7-12 across the country. They are two of only 16 students selected after multiple rounds of judging and each was awarded a $10,000 cash scholarship.
Deoliveira, 19, who attends Design and Architecture Senior High School won for his original art, and Richter, 18, from Miami Palmetto Senior High School, won for her original writing.
Both students will be recognized onstage at Carnegie Hall during an awards ceremony in New York during June and their works will be featured in a special exhibition at The New School’s Parsons School of Design and Pratt Institute’s Pratt Manhattan Gallery in New York City, opening June 5.
Richter said that being selected has great meaning for her.
“To be given an award that so many amazing, acclaimed writers have received in the past has been an extremely humbling and awesome experience for me,” she said. “It came as more of a surprise than anything else, because writing had always just been a really personal thing and finding out that others had a reaction to my work was absolutely wonderful.”
She said that there was no specific moment that she decided to write — it’s just part of who she is.
“For years now I’ve kept records of dreams, interesting phrases, bits of conversation from strangers, story ideas, even a few rap verses I’ve come up with,” Richter said. “It’s become an irresistible impulse. I write in order to sort out my reality, and keep track of the most beautiful parts of that reality.”
She credits her teacher, Jason Meyers, for encouraging her and shaping her writing abilities. Writers and poets who have influenced her include Bukowski, Tony Hoagland, Wendell Berry and Elizabeth Bishop.
“My greatest inspiration, however, comes from the wonders of the natural world, and I think that really shows through my work,” Richter said. “I find that writing is about digging up what it means to be human nowadays, and for me that means translating ourselves back into nature. It’s where we came from, and I believe it holds most of the answers we’re looking for.”
She said she finds joy in creating poems and stories for self-expression and communication.
“I love writing because words give me the freedom to create worlds of my own and then share them with other people,” Richter said.
“Writing is the bridge between the imagination and the real world. It holds the power to integrate the physical domain with emotional parts of ourselves that we are often reluctant to communicate verbally.
Richter said that writing will always be a part of her life, whether professionally or personally.
“What’s most impressive about Hannah is how she excels in academics and visual arts as much as in creative writing,” Meyers said. “Though she is an exceptionally talented student, her success stems from a combination of passion and hard work. Her writing is soulful and witty. She expresses herself through a voice and perspective that transcend her years.”
Deoliveira’s innovative artwork features sculptures made of cement, wood, plastic and even broken cell phones. He explores human interaction with space and shapes by looking at how we interact with our surroundings.
“I am extremely excited and grateful for finally being recognized as an artist,” Deoliveira said. “Receiving this award, to me, means I’ve finally been acknowledged for what I do in a more public and honorable way. I can barely express the level of my gratitude towards this achievement.”
He said that he has been doing artwork for as long as he can remember. “I’ve always been connected with my imagination and have been creating my whole life,” Deoliveira said. “Art has been part of my daily activities for a very long time now.
I’ve attended multiple art schools and plan on continuing my education for a very long time.”
He thinks everyone he has encountered has made a difference in his development as an artist, from small impacts to huge inspirations.
“On the other hand, people like my art teacher, Ellen Abramson, and performance artist Marina Abramovic have had greater effects on what I do, steering me in powerful directions,” Deoliveira said.
He said that he finds self-evaluation of his work extremely difficult.
“I feel like a blind traveler when creating, simply feeling my way around and doing what feels right,” Deoliveira said. “Because I pour my heart and soul into what I do, I suppose my selflessness becomes my favorite attribute.”
He plans on finishing his education and beginning a career as an art director. He hopes to establish himself as an artist and philanthropist to become a highly influential member of society.
Abramson has high praise for him.
“Vinny is an open-minded and openhearted inspired artist,” Abramson said. “He is informed from an inner place that reflects his whole being and he works with a full range of media to explore his ideas, many about his homeland, Brazil, and social conscience. His work is raw, earthy and has a message about the foundations of life/death.
“There are distinct elements yet they are structured like architectural installations,” she continued. “His work is peaceful, yet suggests something on earth being untapped. It is a privilege to watch the unfolding of his creative process and see him recognized for his talent and significant body of work.”