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School receives the Texas Medal of Arts award (story, photos)

Fernando Martinez, Staff Writer

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VMT has received the Texas Medal of Arts, becoming only the second school to attain the honor.

VMT staff members attended three events in Austin, Texas, in late February in which they had the chance to meet others who were attending and see the honorees.

Dr. Martha E. Villarreal, VMT director, explained what the application process was like.

“We were invited to apply by the Texas Institute of Cultural Trust about 2-and-a-half-years ago; it was a very arduous process, but it was a good experience. Putting it together I realized just how much this school has done in the years that it has existed because it was comprehensive. We had to cover from the very beginning until what had happened up to 2 years ago. It was so nice to go and research, pull out all the information, old pictures, old videos, and everything that had been accomplished and it was amazing,” she said.

I just want to say that I am so glad that our kids were there and that they became part of this. They got to know a lot of these very renown, recognized people, and they got a chance to talk to some of these people and impress those people because they certainly impressed a lot of the people that were there. What an experience for our students to have been a part of. Of everything that I saw there and that we did, I think to me the most important thing was that our students got to experience this. It’s something that we’ll never ever forget.”

— Dr. Martha Villarreal

“It called for us to do a narrative. They allowed us to include documentation and photos, but what I did is I put together a book, it was a 2-inch book. It was a binder really, and I included videos, a lot of pictures, newspaper clippings, anecdotal reports from people that had worked here and were no longer here. I included a lot of additional material in that book that we turned in,” she said.

Villarreal described what her reaction was like towards receiving such an honor.

“I was very excited. I mean this is big, the Texas Medal of Arts award is equivalent to the Academy Award. It really is that prestigious. Really for us, for any school, it’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. We’re only the second school to have ever been selected, so that made it extra special for us. The experience itself, going over there and meeting all those people, witnessing the depth of the honor that it brings with the award, it’s unbelievable. I’m very happy that I was able to experience that before I retire,” she said.

Being part of the events in Austin, Villarreal explained what her schedule was like.

“It was very hectic. I arrived and they had a huge suite for us in which they provided us with every comfort. As soon as we arrived we rested a little bit then we went on to the reception at the Blanton Museum, and that’s where our students played. It was such a joy and a thrill to see how well received and how impressed all the spectators were with our students. They couldn’t imagine that these were just high school kids or that they could perform at the level they did. It was wonderful and that was the first night,” she said.

“The following day we rested a little bit in the morning then it was off to the Governor’s Mansion for a brunch, where we also got to meet all the honorees. We met wonderful people there. A lot of previous honorees were present, the governor was exceptionally kind, very friendly, very complimentary as was his wife. It was a wonderful experience. At the Governor’s Mansion, we were presented the medal by the Governor. He put the medal on us and he congratulated us, as he did this to every individual honoree,” Villarreal said. “That same afternoon we started preparing for the Gala and the presentation in the Long Center Auditorium. It was full to capacity, and we had to get on stage as they showed a presentation of each of the honoree’s contribution to the arts. Of course, for ours, they showed all the things that our school does, all the programs and the accolades that we’ve received, and it was wonderful. I got a chance to talk about our wonderful school and it was really an honor for me to be able to share all the great things that happened at this campus,” she said.

“That was followed by the Gala, another amazing experience, where we got to meet a lot of important people to the arts. We had a wonderful meal and I got to meet a lot of encouraging and supportive people. It ended late that evening, and from there we just went to the hotel and rested. I got together with some of the Honorees the following morning for breakfast, and that again was fantastic because I got to personally meet some of the Honorees and their families,” she said.

Villarreal recounts the memories that she will hold of the event.

“My memories are that I met the most incredible people, all very famous in their areas. I met an incredible writer, Stephen Harrigan, then I met world-renowned architects that have done incredible buildings all over the world, that’s Elaine Molinar and Craig Dykers, just fantastic. I also met Boz Scaggs, very famous musician with wonderful music, Ray Benson, very famous for his album Asleep at the Wheel, (and) fashion designer Brandon Maxwell. He dresses all the movie stars, and he has his own TV show. He’s so funny and just so bubbly, so friendly. That’s one thing that was so surprising to me that although these people are so famous, so important and have done so much in their lives, they are still the most down to Earth, the friendliest people, and those are memorable experiences,” she said.

Villarreal explained how the medal benefits VMT.

“We are now part of the elite, we can brag, we can advertise, we can promote that our school is at another level, and once you reach this level, you’re at the pinnacle. For us to be at this level is just fantastic because we were recognized statewide, not only that because it went national so we are recognized, we can promote, we can use this wonderful award and honor to be able to recruit more kids and hopefully recruit more patrons that can support what we do here. I think that is one of the biggest benefits. Of course, just to have that medal hanging at the entrance of our school is just so wonderful, everybody that comes to our school will know who we are, and what we have done,” she said.

Villarreal added that she is proud that the students got to experience this.

“I just want to say that I am so glad that our kids were there and that they became part of this, they got to know a lot of these very renown, recognized people, and they got a chance to talk to some of these people and impress those people, because they certainly impressed a lot of the people that were there, what an experience for our students to have been a part of this. Of everything that I saw there and that we did, I think to me the most important thing was that our students got to experience this and it’s something that we’ll never ever forget,” she said.

We are now part of the elite, we can brag, we can advertise, we can promote that our school is at another level, and once you reach this level, you’re at the pinnacle.”

— Dr. Martha Villarreal

VMT staff members Dr. Mary G. Carroll, piano instructor, and Mark Webber, journalism instructor, shared their thoughts on receiving the medal.

“It’s a big honor for the school. It’s gratifying to see what we do has been validated by a major state-wide arts organizations. Plus, years of school news coverage by The Magnet Tribune was a part of the application, which I’m proud of,” Webber said.

“Our school is among the best in Texas, and I am grateful to be a part of this winning team!” Carroll added.

Carroll and Webber described their experiences at the reception, presentation, and dinner in Austin.

“It was amazing being there with so many people who are key players in Texas arts and culture. It was a once-in-a-lifetime experience,” Webber said.

“A once in a lifetime experience,” Carroll added.

Carroll and Webber described what it was like to attend the event.

“For me, it was the comradery the 10 of us shared in representing VMT at a major art event in the state,” Webber said.

“I was reminded of how proud I am to be teaching at VMT, and how proud I am to be a native Texan,” Carroll said. “I was also very impressed at the generosity and hospitality showed to our performing students.”

Webber described what the award means.

“The award is a legacy that will live on, as long as VMT is a school,” Webber said.

About the Contributors
Mark Webber, Instructor

Mark Webber retired from LISD and teaching on May 30, 2019.

Mark Webber, a founding faculty member at Vidal M. Treviño, taught 26 years as an instructor...

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School receives the Texas Medal of Arts award (story, photos)