By Maura Sheedy – 12th Grade, Oakland Catholic High School
I have always thought that there should be no awards given for art. I believe that art should speak to the viewer individually, and therefore, there really is no “best” art. Technique and talent can only go so far. I still am rooted in my beliefs, but after attending the Labsy Awards and Ralph Munn Awards at the Carnegie Library on Wednesday, August 5, I have reconsidered my stance.
Corey Witting is the Director of “The Labs” at the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh, a series of workshops for teens which focus on creativity, innovation, and multimedia in topics ranging from film to cartooning to fashion design. Since “The Labs” began, he and the other librarians wanted to give recognition to the impressive projects produced by the teen participants. They created the Labsy Awards for experts in each craft to judge submissions from “The Labs” and give out cash prizes to the winners. Judges this year included published poets and authors from Techshop, the Andy Warhol Museum, Modcloth, and WYEP-FM. The Labsy Awards were combined this year with the Ralph Munn Awards, a contest which awards teens for excellence in short prose, poetry, or screenwriting.
I arrived just in time for the pre-party and was able to speak with six young hopefuls.
Kara, a student at Moon Area High School, submitted a film that she made during her film class last year. Before the class, she had no previous interest in film, but the class sparked excitement in her to pursue it as a hobby. She saw an advertisement for the Labsy Awards and decided to submit her film, a remake of the trailer for House at the End of the Street. As a rising senior in high school, she is hoping to study film in college.
Katherine, a junior at South Fayette High School, submitted a short story to the Ralph Munn Awards. Her family came to support her during the awards, although until recently, they had no idea that Katherine had submitted her writing to the contest. After seeing posters in her local library, she decided to write a short story specifically for the awards. She ended up writing “Petrichor,” a story about a man who can communicate with another person through a book he has found.
Jacob and Myra are aspiring photographers from Perry High School. After hearing a presentation at school about the Labsy Awards, they decided to submit their photography. Equipped with his Nikon camera, Jacob likes to shoot what he calls “scenic symbolism” – something that is ordinarily mundane to the blind eye, but offers a deeper meaning or story when looked at more closely. Of the ten photos he submitted, his favorite was a photo of raindrops on a window at his local McDonalds.
Myra, who prefers Canon to Nikon cameras, has only practiced her photography since last February, but it’s hard to believe that she hasn’t been practicing for years. She showed me her “famous” photograph, also known as the photo that has already earned her two scholarships. At a concert at Stage AE, she snapped a photo during the concert’s climax – everyone’s hands are up with confetti blowing through the air, illuminated by a bright light. You can feel the excitement just by looking at it. She submitted this photo to the Labsy Awards, as well as a few others which stick to her main subjects of concerts and downtown Pittsburgh.
Morgan is practically a legend at the Labsy Awards. He has submitted work to the contest for the past two years and has won multiple awards. He is wistful that this is his last Labsy Awards, as he will start college in a few weeks, but he is excited to begin studying film at Point Park University. He submitted a plethora of entries this year: a short film, multiple photographs, and a soundtrack. His video is a hilarious parody that stars his sister and himself dueling over a cherished last slice of pie, until his uncle nonchalantly grabs it before the two start to fight. He also submitted a musical piece entitled “Baum at Liberty,” which features the impressive integration of sounds from a busy intersection with a mod background beat. He likes his film the best because he loves how much creative control he had, as well as the freedom of having multiple aspects that he could shoot from. He added, “You can either work with a larger team or work by yourself too: it’s a healthy challenge.”
Kathryn, a rising senior at Oakland Catholic High School, and Noah, a rising senior at Central Catholic High School, are both talented artists, whether they are working on individual projects at home or working at the Summer Cooperative at the Mattress Factory Art Museum. They each decided to submit a piece in the fashion category after hearing about the Labsy Awards from an instructor at the Co-Op. Kathryn designed her piece after a pair of Mickey Mouse ears made out of flowers that she saw in Teen Vogue. Rather than design a piece resembling Disneyland, she made something that seems straight from the 1920’s with perfect feathers and pearls. Noah decided to submit a piece of jewelry he recently created: a brooch made of up-cycled computer parts with suspended, double-sided coins. He has been experimenting with new techniques lately, but he generally sticks to making jewelry and metal-smithing.
The Labsy Awards began with a welcome from Mary Frances Cooper, President and Director of the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh.
She congratulated all the participants for their hard work and for their courage in submitting their pieces, saying, “It’s not easy to take your innermost thoughts and express them.”
At that moment, I realized that these awards were about more than judging whose art was “the best.” They were about giving teens the chance to express their creativity and share it with us. Art that otherwise may have been crumpled up under the bed or saved to a flash drive would now be viewed by people at the Carnegie Library, the judges, and all 300 of us in the auditorium. Art gives us a small idea of what it’s like to be someone else, and I felt like I learned a little about each of the participants through their submissions.
So how did my interviewees do? Katherine’s story received an honorable mention and was one of 24 published in the 2015 anthology out of 80 entries received. Myra’s famous concert photo received 2nd place in the competitive photography category. Morgan took 2nd in the film category and 1st in the music category.
I was impressed with all of the participants, and I hope they continue to keep creating. Keep putting your work out there for us to enjoy – I cannot wait to see what you make next.
Maura Sheedy is a rising senior at Oakland Catholic High School who lives in Thornburg. She previously has been a part of Young Writers Institute. She considers random things she has seen on the Internet to be her muse for her writing. She enjoys lacrosse, cheer, dance, and blogging.