WMCAT Teaching Artist Dennis Grantz traveled to New York City in early June with student Sequoya Heidenfeld and her mom to celebrate Sequoya’s national Scholastic Art and Writing Awards Silver Key. Here Dennis shares some recollections of the weekend:

Sequoya with her medal on 57th Street.

WMCAT student Sequoya Heidenfeld is a creative individual, and she was right at home among the group of kids from across the country honored at this year’s Scholastic Art and Writing Awards at Carnegie Hall in New York City. Emmy Award-winning actor David Strathairn read work by student poets and entertainer Nick Cannon brought both chuckles and thrills to the audience, reminding students to never give up on their dreams, no matter the obstacles. “This is your first step into breaking boundaries and expressing a vision that is uniquely yours, and a voice that is authentic and bold and searingly honest. It’s that honesty that’s going to make you stand out.”

Unique views and honest conversation were things Sequoya really enjoyed and valued when meeting artistically like-minded teens from many states and even other countries at the “Makers Prom” held this year for the first time for the winning artists at the Roosevelt Hotel. It is hard to measure the degree to which a person’s perceptions can be enlarged and their world-view expanded through experiences like this. These kinds of opportunities are invaluable, life-changing even. You could feel it in the electric atmosphere after the ceremony as medal-laden student artists spilled out onto 57th street to a flood of smiles and photos by parents brimming with pride.

“Accessorized Soldiers”

The artworks were stunning, and in looking at the exhibits at Pratt Manhattan Gallery and Parsons the New School, I realized just how elite this group is. A panel of professors from Pratt Institute talked about the importance of contextualizing your art in addition to developing the craft, and it reinforced for me the idea that art should be created with a purpose, which is what we are working to do at WMCAT. Maybe the greatest take-away for me was the reminder that as Nick Cannon referenced, we can do and go anywhere with our passion if we never give up on it. The evidence of that was all around us in the magnificent city where anything is possible, and in the shining faces of those young artists, blossoming into their futures. Thank you WMCAT for allowing us the opportunity to be part of this!