‘Solace and Insight’

2020 MVRHS Art Competition winners are announced.


First prize and $100 each went to high schoolers Maggie Chronister, Mya O’Neill, and Morgan Scanlon in this year’s Art Competition, sponsored annually by the Vineyard Conservation Society. Middle school winners were Sylvi Carroll and Tasman Strong. Another group of students won Special Distinction status. The awards were announced virtually on Saturday, May 23, and are available online at the VCS, the M.V. Film Center, and Featherstone Center for the Arts.

This year’s competition was titled “Solace and Insight,” and asked students to “relax, spend some time outside, and share what they find there.” On Martha’s Vineyard, students can walk at Cedar Tree Neck, Waskosim’s Rock, and other local sites where they can find the freedom, beauty, and peace the contest proposes, and show how nature can be a balm.

“Now, more than ever, our community’s commitment to conserving land and our access to a wide array of beaches, woods, and trails has a powerful impact on our daily life,” VCS board member Susan Feller wrote in the call for submissions. “Protecting open space and our quality of life is the very heart of the work at the Vineyard Conservation Society.”

Students were asked to consider five concerns through their art: 

  • New insights or ideas about the natural world as the result of the coronavirus pandemic;
  • New places or new things;
  • New meaning in familiar places;
  • A closer look at Vineyard plants, animal life, or waters;
  • Ways the natural world brought the artist solace, hope, inspiration in a time of social isolation.

The VCS invited submissions in several categories: photography, painting, drawing, sculpture, ceramics, video, design, writing, or any other artistic expression. Photography has traditionally been the most popular. New this year was writing, won by MVRHS senior Spencer Pogue, and the VCS opened the contest to seventh and eighth graders for the first time. Winners are not necessarily picked by category.

Since its inception in 2014, the contest has tried to make students aware of VCS work. Themes of past contests, all connected with VCS work, include Water, Waste, Habitat, Discovery, and Connect.

“We hoped to learn more about how Vineyard high school students valued their experience of the natural world,” explained board member Samantha Look. “We wished to provide a prompt that led them outside, and maybe provided an experience that unlocked a new connection with the Island.” Artwork is a wonderful way to understand VCS’s mission, Look suggested. In past years, the VCS employed field trips and classroom discussions to reinforce the contest topic. After professional framing, contest winners are displayed in an online slideshow this year.

Art Department faculty, including MVRHS department chair Chris Baer, Tiffiney Shoquist, Brendan Coogan, and Elspeth Todd, as well as Ken Vincent at the Charter School, have supported the competition, and played an active role in it. Usually a display of submissions is viewed at the high school by a panel of judges who pick their favorites, which is not possible now because of the pandemic. This year’s judges were Posie Haeger from Featherstone Center for the Arts, contest alumnus Jack Yuen, and VCS board member Arnie Reisman. Featherstone, which manages the Feldman Family Artspace at the Vineyard Haven Film Center, usually hangs the winners there. Instead, the slideshow will be available virtually until June 18. To view the slideshow, visit vineyardconservation.org.