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Compared to other fields such as math or biology, art has always been a subjective field because of how different people respond to art. Even if you are an excellent artist, a painting can be “beautiful” to a person but can be “nothing special” to another. However, if you are a biology enthusiast, you can prove your profound understanding of the subject through achieving high scores in biology class, or receiving gold medals in regional, national, and international competitions.
Participating in competitions is extremely important if you are a high school art student applying for college who wants to set yourself apart from other candidates. There are many ways for high school art students to communicate their passion and express their profound understanding of visual art. Participating in visual art competitions is essential for students to receive formal recognition and impress college admission officers reading your application. Today, we have the list of visual art competitions on regional, national, and international scales.
International Visual Art Competitions
1. Doodle for Google
Doodle for Google invites students from K-3 to grade 12 to create a Google Doodle based on what inner strength means to them. Submissions will be grouped into five age groups and evaluated based on artistic skill, creativity, and theme communication. The winner will have their Doodle featured on Google.com for one day, along with a $30,000 college scholarship, and a $50,000 tech package for their school/non-profit organization! National Finalists receive a $5,000 college scholarship. All winners and finalists will receive Google hardware and swag.
Medium: Students have the freedom to choose materials they want to work with, from crayons to clay to found objects.
Deadline: March 4, 2022 11:59 p.m. PST
2. Never Such Innocent
Never Such Innocent is an international art, poetry, speech and song competition for young students aged 9-18. The 2021 theme is “The Unheard Voices of Conflict: Stories from Around the World.” The competition invites students to submit artwork sharing their reflections on conflict or give a voice to those who may not have one.
Medium: Any media such as watercolors, pastels, charcoals, pencils, acrylic, crayons, paper cuttings, oil paints, photography, or digital media.
Deadline: March 18, 2022
3. Science without Borders Challenge
Science without Borders Challenge invites students from 11-19 years old to create art to promote public awareness of the need to preserve, protect, and restore the world’s oceans and aquatic resources. The 2021 theme is “The Magic of Mangroves,” in which students have to illustrate how mangroves are important. Top 3 winners will receive $500, $350 or $200 prize.
Medium: Acceptable media includes paint, pencil, marker, crayon, ink, felt, and oil pastel. Digitally created artwork, including photographs, is not accepted. The artwork must be 2D, such as a painting or drawing.
Deadline: March 7, 2022, at 11:59 pm Eastern Time (ET)
4. EarthX Eco-Art Competition 2022
EarthX Eco-Art Competition 2022 invites young artists ages 5-22 to create 2-D or 3-D art that illustrates the theme: Plant the Seed. Entries will be judged by 4 criteria: Artistic Merit, Adherence to the Theme, Creative Interpretation, and Impact. The winner will receive cash prizes.
Medium: any medium or combination of media, submitted as digital files in JPEG.
Deadline: May 26, 2021 – Jan. 24, 2022
5. DSWF Global Canvas – Children’s Wildlife Art Competition
DSWF Global Canvas – Children’s Wildlife Art Competition is open to children and young people under the age of 16. The competition welcomes submission as individuals or as a group (from 2 children to up to an entire school). The 2022 theme is Forests of Land and Sea.
Medium: All media accepted, such as painting, sculpture, textiles, collages or recycled materials.
Deadline: February 11, 2022
6. The International Environmental Children’s Drawing Contest
The International Environmental Children’s Drawing Contest is sponsored by The Japan Quality Assurance Organization and International Certification Organization Network and UNICEF Tokyo. The 2022 Theme is Choosing Eco-Friendly Lifestyles. The competition invites children aged 7-15 around the world to draw the kind of natural environment they would like to live in. 48 winners will receive special memorabilia. All entrants will receive a participation prize.
Medium: Drawings with any type of paint, pastel, etc.
Deadline: May 31, 2022
7. United Nations Competition
The United Nations invites ordinary citizens to participate in different competitions throughout the year, from photography, artworks, cartoons to video competitions. Each competition hopes to raise awareness about a particular topic about the world and its surrounding issues.
Medium: Varies, check each competition for allowed media
8. National Geographic Student Photo Contest
National Geographic Student Photo Contest (canceled for 2021 and 2022 due to the pandemic) invites high school photographers from 13-18 years old to “convey what exploration and adventure mean to them” through a photograph. Photos were judged on Photographic quality (50%), Composition (25%), and Execution of theme (25%). 30 finalists will have their photograph published on the National Geographic Student Expeditions website, and one grand prize winner will win a spot on the National Geographic Student Expeditions photography trip of their choice.
Medium: Photographs, submitted as digital files in JPG or JPEG format, 20 MB or smaller
9. Planet911 Youth Film Challenge
Planet911 Youth Film Challenge, sponsored by EarthX, invites young filmmakers from 11-22 years old who care about the planet to create a 50-second or less story in response to one of the two questions:
- How can we protect our natural resources and the rights of the world’s citizens to live equitably?
- How do we build a more environmentally just world?
Winners will receive cash prizes, with the total prize value is at up to $7500.
Medium: Film such as documentary, narrative, animated films, and other genres. Files are submitted as MP4 or .MOV, with 16.9 (horizontal) framing preferred, and 1080p or minimum 720p quality
10. Sony World Photography Awards Youth Competition
Sony World Photography Awards Youth Competition invites young photographers from 12 to 19 years old to submit photographs for changing themes every month, such as: Composition & Design, Culture & Travel, Landscape, Open Call, Portraits, Street Photography, and Wildlife & Nature. Photographers can submit up to 3 images per month. The winner will receive Sony digital imaging equipment, recognition on Sony platforms.
Medium: Photographs, submitted as digital files
American Visual Art Competitions
1. YoungArts Competition
YoungArts Competition is a part of the YoungArts National Arts Competition, where artists across 10 disciplines come together and earn a chance to win cash awards, receive mentorships from accomplished artists, receive lifetime professional support, and achieve national recognition. Artists ages 15–18, or grades 10–12 are encouraged to apply in the discipline of their choice: Classical Music, Dance, Design Arts, Film, Jazz, Photography, Theater, Visual Arts, Voice, and Writing. Finalists of the competitions are invited to National YoungArts Week, an intensive, week-long all-expense-paid program in Miami. Finalists are eligible for financial awards of up to $10,000, as well as for nomination as U.S. Presidential Scholars in the Arts.
Medium: Varies depending on the discipline you choose
2. Celebrating Art
Celebrating Art is a student art contest for anyone in grades K-12. The best entries are invited to be published in the Celebrating Art book. 10 winners from each grade group (K-3, 4-6, 7-9, 10-12) and their art teachers will share over US$5000 in prizes.
Medium: any medium that can have a still digital image (painting, sculpture, drawing, collage, etc.)
3. Arts and Writing Awards
Arts & Writing Awards is the longest-running, oldest, and most prestigious literary and art competition in the United States, aiming to find creative works and original technical skills by students in grades 7-12 in the United States and Canada. Within the Art area, there are 17 categories students can participate in: Architecture & Industrial Design, Ceramics & Glass, Comic Art, Design, Digital Art, Drawing & Illustration, Editorial Cartoon, Expanded Projects, Fashion, Film & Animation, Jewelry, Mixed Media, Painting, Photography, Printmaking, Sculpture, Art Portfolio (graduating seniors only). Winners and their schools can receive up to US $250,000 in prizes and scholarships.
Deadline: Between December 2021 and January 2022
4. Congressional Art Competition
The Congressional Art Competition is sponsored by The Congressional Institute. The competition invites high school students to create 2-D artwork. Students submit entries to their representative’s office, and the winners are recognized in their district and at an annual awards ceremony in Washington, D.C. Their works will also be displayed for one year at the U.S Capitol.
- Paintings: oil, acrylics, watercolor, etc.
- Drawings: colored pencil, pencil, ink, marker, pastels, charcoal (It is recommended that charcoal and pastel drawings be fixed.)
- Collages: must be two dimensional
- Prints: lithographs, silkscreen, block prints
- Mixed Media: use of more than two mediums such as pencil, ink, watercolor, etc.
- Computer-generated art
Deadline: Varies depending on the district
5. FAA High School Competition
FAA High School Competition is sponsored by the College of Fine and Applied Arts in Illinois. The competition invites students to “demonstrate their talents and earn opportunities to explore the wide variety of classes and majors offered within the College of Fine and Applied Arts.” If enrolled in the University of Illinois College of Fine and Applied Arts, the winning senior will receive $1,000 to be applied toward their first-year college expenses. The winning freshman/sophomore/junior for each competition will receive one scholarship to attend an FAA summer program.
Medium: Not limited to visual arts, such as: Architecture, Art and Design, Landscape Architecture, Urban Planning
Deadline: Friday, April 1, 2022, for freshman, sophomore, and junior. The senior application has been closed.
6. Reading Municipal Light Department (RMLD) High School Student Art Contest
RMLD High School Student Art Contest invites students in the towns of Reading, North Reading, Wilmington, and Lynnfield Center in Massachusetts to create an electricity themed artwork. Participants receive a certificate for 10 hours of community service, and winners receive gift cards for school or art supplies along with the chance for their artwork to be featured on the cover of RMLD’s annual report.
Medium: Various mediums are accepted including, but not limited to, drawings, paintings, photography, and graphic art.
7. Artists Magazine Annual Art Competition
Artists Magazine Annual Art Competition celebrates artists around the U.S. The competition has a student division, for students aged 16 and above. Students can enter as often as they prefer, under five categories: Animal/Wildlife, Abstract/Experimental, Landscape, Portrait/Figure, and Still Life/Interior. Winning students will receive a free subscription to Artists Network TV for one year and be featured in Feature on Artists Network Instagram/website.
Medium: 2-D artwork using any traditional art media, including oil, acrylic, watercolor, casein, gouache, egg tempera, soft pastel, oil pastel, charcoal, graphite, colored pencil, pen and ink, graphite, charcoal, colored pencil, ink or marker, scratchboard, mixed media and mixed-media collage, silver or other metal point, and printmaking (etching, mezzotint, lithography, woodcut, monotype, mono print, aquatint). Photography, with the exception of minor elements incorporated in a collage, will NOT be considered. Sculpture will NOT be considered. Digital art will NOT be considered.
Deadline: May 29, 2022
8. Tombow’s Create Your Best Work Art Scholarship
Tombow’s Create Your Best Work Art Scholarship invites high school seniors and college freshman and sophomore students to submit their portfolio (1-3 high resolution scanned or photographed images or artwork) for a chance to receive $5000 or $2500 scholarships for college tuition.
Medium: any of the following media – graphite pencil, water-based marker/brush pen, alcohol-based marker/brush pen, drawing. At least one submission must be created using graphite pencils pen, and/or permanent marker
Deadline: March 1, 2022
9. Vans Custom Culture
Vans Custom Culture invites high school students to create art using both pairs of blank Vans shoes under the specific themes: Hometown Pride and Head in the Clouds. Winners will receive cash prizes and discount codes.
Medium: The design may be created digitally or on a print-out of the Vans shoe template.
If the former, any graphics arts/design software program may be used, in accordance
with the terms/conditions of same; if the latter, design may be created using crayon,
magic marker, paint, pencil or any other durable medium.
Deadline: January 10, 2022 – February 4, 2022
10. All American High School Film Festival
All American High School Film Festival (AAHSFF) is the largest student film festival in the world. The competition invites high school students to form teams to participate in a 10-week filming challenge. All films that are “official selection” are eligible to be nominated for an award. All award nominees and winners will be announced at the Teen Indie Awards on Sunday, October 10th, at The Kings Theater in Brooklyn, NY. The Teen Indie Awards are the Oscars for high school students, awarded cash prizes and recognition.
Medium: Film with various genres
Deadline: October 7th – October 9th, 2022
Those are the top 20 visual arts competitions for high school students, ranging from drawing, painting, photographing to filmmaking. If you’re interested in one area, don’t hesitate to register for one. Even if you don’t win any prizes, you will receive valuable feedback from the judges! If you are unsure about your work compared to other contestants, Aralia offers an Art Portfolio Prep program, where teachers will guide you through the portfolio creation process, to help you define your style and direction for the future artwork.
Details about the class are below!
Description: During this eight-week art portfolio preparation online course, students will carry out a series of drawing, design and three-dimensional projects that will promote creative investigation, experimentation with materials, risk-taking, and critical dialogue. These creative practices will serve to engage students in a foundational experience, develop intellectual and practical skills, and elicit the confidence necessary to do so.
Class schedule: 8 classes total, 120 minutes each class