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Students earn national visual art, writing awards

The Mississippi School of the Arts continues to establish itselfas an incubator of arts greatness, and six students recently addedtheir names to the list of accomplishments that continue to set theschool apart.

The Scholastic Art and Writing Awards are given to about 1,400of the nation’s most talented teen artists and writers. And of165,000 entries, six of the winners came from MSA.

“I’m excited. This is the first big award I’ve gotten, and Ithink it’s a good start,” said Jackie O’Neal, a 19-year-old seniorvisual student from Southaven.

O’Neal won the American Visions Award for her artwork depictingbabies growing inside men’s humpbacks, then finally springingforth. Officials said the award is basically a “Best in Show”award, and only five are given nationally.

Aubrey Palermo, a 19-year-old senior visual student fromBrookhaven, won a Scholastic Art award for a piece made ofmotherboards of DVD and VCR machines. She said all over the work iscode she has written herself, and it all means somethingpersonal.

“Her name is actually a long serial number,” Palermo said,referring to her piece of art. “She’s about having all your secretsout there on your skin where everyone can see them.”

Senior visual student Ethan Boutwell, also from Brookhaven,entered two pieces in the competition. One was about theprogression of time, and it was made with three screen doorsshowing a little girl, a young woman, and an elderly woman.

Boutwell’s second project used personal memorabilia includingfavorite books, a friend’s shirt, a lock of hair and a familyheirloom chair along with Haiti Indian masks to show a link betweenthe people in Boutwell’s life and the Haiti Indians.

“I’m excited,” he said about his two visual arts honors. “I’mhappy to get my name on a national level where it’s out there.”

There were also three literary students who won ScholasticWriting Awards.

Senior Jules Wood, of Meridian, won two gold awards for herpoetry and prose, as well as for a short story about the suicide ofVirginia Woolfe.

“I like to do that,” she said. “I’ll see a historical event andgive my own fictional account where there is no account.”

Wood’s poetry was a work that took her about two years toperfect, she said. It focuses on her travels, and her childhood,moving from Japan to Oklahoma and the culture shock thatensued.

Ashlyn Ervin, 18, of Collins, won two silver awards for hernon-fictional works about the life of her great-grandmother and forher general portfolio. She said the award was especially importantbecause her great-grandmother has progressing dementia.

“I put together a collection of stories about her life, and Igave her one of my certificates,” Ervin said. “I guess I’m doing itso she can remember.”

Ervin also received an award for her general poetry andprose.

Leslie Fowler, 18, wrote a short story about a bird who lost hismate, focusing primarily on personifying his voice and making himmore believable to the reader.

“I wanted to get a bird’s problem in firm detail, make itconcrete,” she said. “This was a big confidence booster, because Ididn’t want to have to write about the things other people writeabout. I wanted to write about things that seemed reallydifferent.”

The visual students are sponsored by Anne O’Hara, and theliterary students by Dr. Jeanne Lebow.

The National Awards Celebration takes place June 9-10 atCarnegie Hall in New York City. Both Wood and Boutwell are planningto make the trip.

“It’s going to be cool, I can’t wait for the workshops at theceremony,” Wood said. “I’m excited about those because we’ll beworking with established artists.”