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April 3, 2014

Interlochen Arts Academy student receives top honors

TRAVERSE CITY — Budding artists crave feedback. They want to know that the work they’re creating is reaching an audience, and they want to know what kind of impression it leaves.

“I think what’s really important to artists, visual artists especially, is validation,” Interlochen Arts Academy visual arts student Madison Brownson said.

Brownson, 18, is one of 16 students to be named a national Portfolio Gold Medalist in the 2014 Scholastic Art and Writing Awards. The competition, facilitated by the nonprofit Alliance for Young Artists and Writers, is the longest-running recognition and scholarship program for creative teenagers in the United States.

This year the alliance received more than 255,000 submissions from students across the country in grades 7-12. Only eight visual artists and eight writers received a Portfolio Gold Medal, the competition’s highest honor.

The award comes with a $10,000 scholarship, an award ceremony at Carnegie Hall in New York City and exposure in a two-week exhibit at Parsons The New School for Design and the Pratt Manhattan Gallery, also in New York City.

It’s just the kind of validation Brownson sought.

“Having an organization like this telling me, ‘We think your work is great and we want to recognize you,’ that’s huge,” she said. “It encourages me to make more work, and I’m even more excited about future pieces because I have this assurance that what I’m doing is respected. I’m doing something right.”

Brownson hails from Napoleon, Ohio and has attended Interlochen Arts Academy for two years.

Her portfolio is all anatomical artwork. She submitted peonies, a cabbage, kidneys, a liver and a colon — all created with fabric — along with a figure drawing in graphite and a wax model of the hippocampus, the seahorse-shaped part of the brain linked to memory.

The kidneys are Brownson’s favorite piece in her portfolio, in part because they allowed her to explore working in fiber art, but mostly because they turned out just the way she envisioned them.

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