WHS senior receives national recognition for creative photography


WELLS, Maine ─ Earlier this year, Lilly Arbelo, a Wells High School elder, received a prestigious Gold Key award in the national portion of the 2021 Scholastic Art & Writing Awards. It’s for a creative photograph of her own titled “Soft suffocation”. The Scholastic Art & Writing Awards competition is presented annually by the Alliance for Young Artists & Writers.

“I was really excited,” Arbelo said, recalling the day she first learned of the honor from her art teacher Emily Knight. “I remember I had a rough day then my teacher, Miss Knight (called).” According to Arbelo, she and Knight shed a few tears while discussing this news. “I didn’t expect it at all,” Arbelo said.

“Of the 230,000 works of art entered in this year’s competition, Lilly is one of some 800 students who will be awarded the National Gold Key Distinction,” teacher Knight commented in an email. “This is an exciting and well-deserved recognition of Lilly’s hard work and talent. According to Knight, six students from Maine received a National Gold Key Award this year.

According to Arbelo, she suffered from PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) during her first and second years resulting from a lingering situation that gave her a subtle choking sensation. It was this experience that inspired her to create a photo demonstrating her apparent torment and frustration. To create this effect visually, she used an old camera from her father, her own LED lighting, and a regular trash bag to illustrate how suffocating the experience was for her.

“I didn’t expect it to go this far,” said Arbelo, who plans to study art at the University of Maine at Orono.

In February, the WHS Art Department announced that nine students, including Arbelo, had received a combined total of 13 awards in the Maine region’s Scholastic Art & Writing Awards competition. At the regional level, Arbelo received a golden key in photography, a silver key in painting and an honorable mention in photography. Those who receive a gold key at the regional level are invited to compete at the national level.

Normally, an in-person ceremony honoring the National Gold and Silver Key Award winners takes place in New York. However, this year’s ceremony will be virtual and will be held live on YouTube on June 9 at 7 p.m. ET.

Founded in 1923, the National Scholastic Art and Writing Awards competition is described on its website (www.artandwriting.org/awards) as “the country’s oldest and most prestigious recognition program for creative teens.” The competition is open to students in grades 7 to 12 and is run regionally by the Maine College of Art in Portland.


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