Students hoping to be one of 20

Three teens studying art in Towson are finalists in presidential contest

February 18, 2002|By Sandy Alexander | Sandy Alexander,SUN STAFF

Three young Baltimore County artists have reached the final stages of a scholarship program that may take them from the paint-splattered studios of their high school to the White House.

Laini Nemett, Carly Silverman and Elliot Spence, all seniors at Carver Center for Arts and Technology in Towson, are among the 50 national finalists in the prestigious Presidential Scholars in the Arts program, which includes a trip to Washington and a ceremony with President Bush for the winners.

"We've been gearing up for it since freshman year," says Nemett, 17, of Stevenson. The contest "is the big one for arts students."

FOR THE RECORD - An article in yesterday's Maryland section misspelled the name of Khalid Ali, a former student at Carver Center for Arts and Technology. Also, the name of the college Ali attends was incorrect. It is the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, Calif. The Sun regrets the errors.

In the fall, many of the seniors at Carver, from a variety of disciplines, submitted slides, tapes and other examples of their best work to the Arts Recognition and Talent Search, sponsored by the National Foundation for Advancement in the Arts. This year, nine Carver literary arts students and 16 visual arts students received honorable mentions or merit placements.

Five visual arts students were invited to take their work to a January conference in Miami for the next level of evaluation.

Nemett, who likes to paint figures in their own environment as a way to "transcend the everyday," took paintings depicting her family and friends at home, as well as other works. She plans to become an art teacher.

Spence, 18, of Relay, who is praised by his teachers for his conceptual artwork, took a series of smaller, square paintings of everyday objects to Miami, along with a number of large graphite drawings.

Women with elongated feet, bright patterned clothing and unusual perspectives appear in the paintings that Silverman, 18, of Pikesville, took with her. She says it doesn't matter so much if the subjects are in proportion, as long as they are aesthetically pleasing. She plans to attend an arts college next year.

Also attending the conference in Miami was Omead Afshari, 17, of Reisterstown, who likes to use his still camera like a video camera to capture changes in light and time. His recent projects involve patching together more than 40 photos of one setting into an artistic image. He is considering a career in advertising or photojournalism.

The fifth Carver student in Miami was Kalid Eli, a 2001 Carver graduate and video artist studying at the Pasadena Arts Center in California.

In Miami, they showed their work and interacted with other young artists from around the country. "It was so amazing to see what other artists are doing," Silverman says.

The 127 participants in the Miami conference received monetary awards and access to scholarships. Fifty were nominated to become Presidential Scholars in the Arts, and 20 winners will be chosen in April.

A pool of 121 academic Presidential Scholars is also selected each year based on SAT or ACT scores, applications and essays; the talent search, though, is the only way for students to earn such recognition in the arts.

"It's the Super Bowl of arts competitions," says Charles Schwarz, Carver's photography and foundations instructor.

And Carver is dedicated to building a winning team.

The legacy of artistic success is an important part of the culture at Carver, says Joe Giordano, chairman of the visual arts department. Five of the school's six graduating classes have had a Presidential Scholar.

Alumni artwork decorates the studios and classrooms. Younger students are familiar with previous talent search winners and, Giordano says, "they are motivated, driven by the kids they respect."

The students who went to Miami spend up to three hours in school each day working on art and devote most of their free time to it.

"I'm doing what I like to do," says Afshari. "At other schools, sports is a big thing; at Carver, art is a big thing."

Says Nemett, "We work really hard. It's great to be recognized for that."

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