Photo: 190211-news-studentaward

Manchester Memorial High School Senior Xavier Rios, 17, standing beside his award winning photo "Gone" (top right), which is part of a series chronicling the homelessness and addiction epidemics in New England. He was one of seven students awarded a Gold Key for their portfolios at the Scholastic Art Awards of New Hampshire Sunday. 

DERRY -- More than 200 students from grades 7 through 12 from schools across the state were awarded Gold Keys at a ceremony Sunday for their original artwork, enabling them to compete in a national competition in New York.

The Scholastic Arts Awards of New Hampshire, which was hosted and sponsored by Pinkerton Academy’s Stockbridge Theatre in Derry, selected its Gold Key recipients out of 2,356 submissions from students in public, parochial and private schools statewide.

Scholastic Arts Awards of New Hampshire’s executive director, Scott Chatfield, emceed the event. He said the event also included what was the largest exhibit to date, with 1,066 works of art on display.

“This year was a lot of culturally timely pieces,” Chatfield said. “Students are really reflecting on what’s going on in our society.”

The artwork included paintings, photography,  ceramics and more. They covered themes related to depression and mental health, bullying, identity issues and the addiction epidemic.

One of the students who covered drugs and addiction in his work, was Xavier Rios, 17, a senior at Memorial High School in Manchester.

He won a Gold Key for some of his individual photos, but was also one of only seven students to be recognized with a Gold Key for their portfolios, which also opens up scholarship opportunities at a number of local art schools, many of which had tables set up in the exhibit area. There were 80 portfolio submissions competing.

Rios’ photos feature individuals living in homelessness, mostly in Manchester. One of the subjects, in the work titled “Gone” was taken in Boston.

“I’ve lived in Manchester my whole life. We pass by them everyday but we don’t pay attention to them,” Rios said.

He said he has been working on the project for about three years. Rios would deliver water bottles and blankets and listen to people's stories. And, in exchange, they would let him take their picture.

While he said his work ties into the opioid epidemic, not all homeless people are addicts.

“Not everybody on the street is there for a bad reason,” he said.

Rios’ photography teacher, Ron Budway, said eight students from Memorial won 11 Gold Keys Sunday.

“We can go 10 years and not have someone win a national award,” Budway said. “But we’ve had six students win seven national awards in the last 10 years.”

Those who win the national awards will be announced on March 13, and invited to an exhibit and Gold Medal ceremony in June at Carnegie Hall in New York. Chatfield said only about 25 of the more than 200 Gold Key recipients will likely win national awards.

Budway said the selections are judged by professional artists and college professors, mostly.

Twelve works won Best in Show, winning the students a $100 prize. They included works such as “Astral Duality” by Mary Cruz, senior at Merrimack Valley High School, “Reality is Overrated” by Sabrina Kearney, ninth grader at Nashua High School South, “Power Struggle” by Jaebin Lee, junior at New Hampton School, and “Mind Waves” by Alison Wright, senior at John Stark Regional High School.

Of the 12 artworks selected for Best in Show, five were nominated to represent New Hampshire to win the American Vision Award. Only one will be selected by national judges.

During the ceremony, 429 Silver Keys were also awarded, along with 435 Honorable Mentions.

ldnews@unionleader.com