TO JULY 19

The only way I ever won a student art prize was by accident. One day in sixth-grade art class, I got bored and began doodling some fish on a piece of scrap paper. At the end of the hour, I absentmindedly tossed it into my folder and didn’t think of it again until a classmate told me he’d noticed it on the wall—with a Third Place ribbon pinned on it. My resulting cynicism about student art shows lasted until a few years ago, when I stumbled across the annual Scholastic Art Awards National Exhibition at the Corcoran Gallery of Art. Every year, students from grades 7 through 12 enter a quarter of a million artworks, ranging from paintings, photographs, and sculpture to architectural and environmental designs and computer graphics (Christina Nickel’s Idiot Box is pictured). The judges choose only national 1,100 winners, and only a couple of hundred works are displayed at the Corcoran. My favorites in this year’s exhibit include A Portrait a Day on Vacation, a self-explanatory series of canvases by Katherine Cannistra of Milwaukee; Southwest Escape, a striking roadscape by Frankie Ollervides of Mesquite, Texas; and an untitled and deceptively pedestrian-looking photograph of a suburban scene by Will Bastian of Byfield, Mass. Perhaps this is just nostalgia talking, but I don’t think this year’s selection wowed me as much as previous years’ did. Still, even in an off year, the works on display are decidedly impressive—and light years ahead of my fish. On view Friday to Monday and Wednesday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Thursday from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. to Monday, July 19, at the Corcoran Gallery of Art, 17th & New York Ave. NW. $3 (suggested donation). (202) 639-1700. (Louis Jacobson)