Ever since grade school, Joy Heisey, 17, has had an affinity for art, an interest encouraged by her father, Andrew Heisey, chair of the art department at Waynesburg University.

After years of working on her skills, Joy decided to enter the country’s longest-running and most prestigious scholarship and recognition program for creative students grades 7-12: the Scholastic Art and Writing Competition. Joy first entered the competition in the eighth grade and continued each year since, except her ninth grade year.

Last year, Joy, a Waynesburg Central High School student, took home a Gold Key Award, the highest of three categories awarded, as well as a nomination for an American Vision Award in the competition. This year, she did even better. From 632 pieces of art and writing submitted by students from Greene, Washington and Fayette counties, Joy captured four Gold Key awards, as well as one American Vision nomination for her portfolio of eight works.

The art and writing works that earned Gold Key awards from around the country are now being judged in New York by a national jury. Those who win national awards will be honored at Carnegie Hall in Manhattan on June 4, and their works will be exhibited in New York galleries and traveling shows that will tour the country.

Although Joy said she usually creates 2-D art, her first attempt of a sculptural piece, a large 5 by 3 by 2 foot goldfish made from Pepperidge Farm goldfish crackers earned her a Gold Key Award. Made up of thousands of crackers hot glued onto a frame, the piece has long fins and wiry appendages also made of crackers strung on wires. The title, “All Grown Up,” alludes to the fact that the work is made up of small crackers, usually associated with children, that come together to form an “adult” goldfish.

For the eyes of the creation, Joy used crushed and burned crackers for the pupil and white marshmallow crackers for the outer ring. Because the entire piece is covered in Mod Podge, the crackers are now sealed and should last quite a while. Joy said she would like to enter it in other exhibits in the future and perhaps even sell it.

The artist estimates that she worked on the piece for a couple of hours each day over a four to five month period. One of her teachers posted a request for cracker donations, and her father helped her figure out how to attach the tail fins. He also designed the box in which the piece is transported.

“The idea for the piece came from the fact that I used to draw temporary tattoos of goldfish and goldfish crackers on people and became known as the “goldfish girl,” Joy said.

Sunday, Feb. 23, the public was able to view the works submitted to this year’s 97th Scholastic Art and Writing Competition in an exhibit in Louis L. Manderino Library at California University of Pennsylvania. The awards were presented to the Gold, Silver and Honorable Mention recipients in the university’s Steele Auditorium at 2 p.m. Those that earned American Vision and Voice nominations were also recognized in the award presentation ceremony.

Joy also received a Gold Key Award for “Gelato,” a 24 by 18-inch colored pencil drawing of a double-scoop ice cream cone, based on a photo she took while visiting Barcelona, Spain two years ago. Her pen and ink drawing of a streetscape in Barcelona with a huge Catalan flag hanging outside a building also earned a Gold Key Award, as did her eight-piece art portfolio.

After graduating from Waynesburg Central this spring, Joy plans to attend Grove City College to major in communications and minor in studio art with a goal of eventually becoming a concept artist.

“I’m unaware of any student who ‘s captured as many awards and an American Vision nomination in a single year in our chapter as did Joy,” Jim Winegar said, a board member of Scholastic Art and Writing Awards of Southwestern Pennsylvania and one of the founders of the chapter. “She’s participated in a number of SAWA programs over the years and has created an indelible record both in the number of awards she’s received and in the quality of her work.”

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