Students visit the Fralin Museum of Art at The University of Virginia for the Writers Eye program. Photo Credit: coe sweet photography

Two Buford students among Writer’s Eye contest winners

Buford student portrait
Ariela Milstein
Lowell Tolton

The Fralin Museum of Art at the University of Virginia announced the winners of Writer’s Eye 2018, the Museum’s annual literary competition challenging

writers of all ages to create original works of poetry and prose inspired by art.

In the Poetry category, Buford student Ariela Milstein placed first for her original work, “A Broken Home,” and Lowell Tolton earned first place honorable mention for her poem, “Just Am.”

Nearly 2000 Charlottesville City School students in grades 3-8 visited the Fralin Museum of Art last fall to participate in the program. After an interactive tour, students were asked to use the art as inspiration for their writing.

“For many of our students, visiting an art museum is a new experience,” said Charlottesville City Schools Literacy Coordinator Jen Davis. “The Writer’s Eye program helps our students look at art through a detailed lens and produce creatively written pieces using the art as the springboard.”

Students visit Fralin Art Museum at UVA.
Students contemplate a multi-media painting at the Fralin Museum of Art.

While touring the museum, students viewed a special collection of 12 original works ranging from a 1910 Edward Henry Potthast oil painting, “The Balloon Vender,” to more contemporary pieces like Nigerian artist Njideka Akunyili Crosby’s mixed-media work, “Home: As you See Me.”  Then the students wrote about their observations, emotions, and feelings invoked by the artwork, a concept known as ekphrasis.

Museum docents helped the young writers consider their own human experiences using prompts such as, “Does this painting remind you of a place you’ve been or an experience you’ve had?” and “Imagine a conversation between the figures in this painting—what are they talking about?”

Walker Upper Elementary teacher Jenifer Snyder visited the museum with students who are learning English as a second language. “It was amazing to see how these students were able to think deeply about small details in the artwork and then put their ideas down on paper.”

This year 4,406 individuals participated in the Writer’s Eye tours, and many others sought out the artwork on their own. Community and student docents gave 348 tours to students from 36 public schools and 19 independent schools in the cities of Charlottesville, Staunton, and Waynesboro, and nine surrounding counties: Albemarle, Augusta, Appomattox, Culpeper, Greene, Madison, Nelson, Orange, and Rappahannock.

Contestants submitted 1,306 entries in four age-related categories: Grades 3–5, 6– 8, 9–12 and university/adult. Entries for the younger grades are judged by panels of local writers and teachers.

The winners will be honored at an awards ceremony on March 17 from 3-5 p.m. in UVA’s Newcomb Hall Ballroom, and their works will be published in a 27-page full color anthology, available to the public for free.