Wednesday, Sep 19, 2018
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Whitmer High sophomore gets gold medal for Tolstoy portrait

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    Andrea Matthews, a sophomore student at Whitmer High School, recently won a gold medal at the 2017 National Scholastic Art & Writing Awards.

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    Andrea Matthews’ portrait of Leo Tolstoy won her a gold medal at the 2017 National Scholastic Art & Writing Awards in New York City this month.

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Students in Whitmer High School’s drawing class often choose friends and family members as the subjects of their work, but 16-year-old Andrea Matthews devoted her time to drawing 19th-century Russian author Leo Tolstoy.

Originally inspired by a worn copy of War and Peace she had recently picked up, Andrea initially planned to draw only the cover of the epic novel about Napoleon’s Russian campaign and its effect on Russian society. She changed her mind after researching the famed author.

“I Googled him and was like, ‘wow, he has a really interesting face,’” she said.

The choice, coupled with Andrea’s artistic talents — she’s been drawing since she could hold a crayon — served her well. The Toledo teen’s pencil-drawn portrait impressed the judges at the 2017 National Scholastic Art and Writing Awards, ultimately winning her a gold medal award in New York City this month.

“To win a gold medal at the national level is amazing,” said Andrea’s art teacher Lori Johnson, who noted it was particularly rare for a 10th-grade student to succeed among older competitors. “It doesn’t happen often.”

After working on her portrait for more than six weeks, Andrea submitted her work for consideration in the online round of Scholastic’s competition. Soon after, the organization invited her to show the portrait in Fort Wayne, Ind., during a regional-level exhibition at the Fort Wayne Museum of Art in February.

More than 300 students from northern Indiana and northwest Ohio — Andrea being one of them — received a Gold Key to progress onto the national round.

“It felt really great that I had won the highest award in that regionally,” said young Matthews.

On June 8 and 9, Ms. Johnson and the Matthews family traveled to New York City to attend two days of Scholastic-sponsored events. Among these offerings was a ceremony at Carnegie Hall, where comedians Amy Schumer and Ellie Kemper spoke.

“It was amazing. I got to meet artists from all over the country,” Andrea said. “A lot of the people I met were actually from the Midwest.”

The gold medal, which only 56 other students from Andrea’s region won, came as a surprise to the 16-year-old, who was competing in her first art show.

Having now returned to Ohio, Andrea plans to begin a new portrait that is a bit closer to home.

“It’s my aunt and my uncle, for their wedding,” she said.

Contact Antonia Ayres-Brown at: or 419-724-6368.

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