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 can choose materials they want to work with, from crayons to clay to found objects.
Judging Criteria: The submission will be judged by 5 grade groups: Grade K-3, 4-5, 6-7, 8-9 and 10-12.
- Artistic merit: Based on artistic skill
- Creativity: Representation of the contest theme, use of the letters in the Google logo, and the unique approach to the Doodle
- Theme communication: How well the contest theme is expressed in both the artwork and the written statement
Deadline: March 14, 2023 11:59 p.m. PST
Never Such Innocent is an international art, poetry, speech and song competition for young students aged 9-18. The 2023 theme is “What does war mean to you?” The competition invites students to submit artwork sharing their reflections on conflict or give a voice to those who may not have one. Students can create responses individually or collaboratively, whether writing a song with a classmate, working on a poem with someone they know from another country, or producing a piece of artwork solo!
Medium: Any media such as watercolors, pastels, charcoals, pencils, acrylic, crayons, paper cuttings, oil paints, photography, or digital media.
Deadline: March 10, 2023
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 2023 Science without Borders® Challenge theme is “The Sixth Extinction.” You can help create awareness about endangered species for this year’s contest. The top 3 winners will receive a $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: Monday, March 4, 2024 at midnight ET.
4. EarthX Eco-Art Competition
EarthX Eco-Art Competition 2023: Protectors for the Planet 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. This year’s theme for the artwork is Protectors for the Planet. The artwork should address different aspects of this theme, such as how the artist themselves can directly impact their community or provide solutions to global environmental issues. The theme can be interpreted in various ways, including individuals taking action towards a more sustainable planet, visualizing the impact of environmental issues like biodiversity and pollution, or highlighting the efforts of environmental leaders and animals working to sustain ecosystems. Students aged 5-22 at the time of entry are eligible.
Medium: any medium or combination of media, submitted as digital files in JPEG.
Deadline: The competition is currently canceled
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 competition is free to enter and is open to children and young people aged 16 and under. We welcome entries from both groups and individuals. A group can be as small as 2 children, or as large as a whole school.
Medium: All media accepted, such as painting, sculpture, textiles, collages or recycled materials.
Deadline: February 13, 2024
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 2023 Theme is Joyful Times for People and Nature. The competition invites children aged 7-15 worldwide 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, 2023
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. There are two competitions related to art: International Art Contest for Minority Artists and the 2023 PLURAL+ Youth Video Festival.
The International Art Contest for Minority Artists is being held on the occasion of Zero Discrimination Day and Racial Justice Month, which is part of the OHCHR’s year-long commemoration of the 75th anniversary of adopting the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The competition aims to celebrate minority artists.
The PLURAL+ Youth Video Festival invites young filmmakers worldwide to submit their videos on human mobility, cultural diversity, and inclusion. The festival has recognized young voices for 15 years, encouraging them to address global challenges related to migration, diversity, social inclusion, and the prevention of xenophobia.
Medium: Varies, check each competition for allowed media
- International Art Contest for Minority Artists: May 15, 2023
- PLURAL+ Youth Video Festival: June 30, 2023
8. 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: Films such as documentaries, narratives, animated films, and other genres. Files are submitted as MP4 or .MOV, with 16.9 (horizontal) framing preferred, and 1080p or minimum 720p quality
Deadline: The competition is currently canceled until further notice.
9. 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 monthly changing themes, such as Composition and design, Culture and travel, Landscape, Open Call, Portraits, Street Photography, and Wildlife and nature. Photographers can submit up to 3 images per month. The winner will receive Sony digital imaging equipment, and recognition on Sony platforms.
Medium: Photographs, submitted as digital files
Deadline: January 5, 2024 at 13:00 (GMT)
The annual Ocean Awareness Contest provides a platform for young people to understand environmental issues through artistic creation and creative thoughts, explore their relationship with the changing world, and become advocates of positive change.
Students are invited to create Visual Art (any medium), Creative Writing, Film, Interactive & Multimedia, Performing Arts: Music & Dance, and Poetry & Spoken Word.
Competition Theme: The 2023 Ocean Awareness Competition theme is “Climate Heroes in Action.”
Deadline: June 10, 2024
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
Deadline: June 2024 – October 2024
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.)
Deadline: December 7, 2023
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 2023 and January 2024
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: September 1 – TBD
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: July 25, 2023
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: No information for the competition in 2023
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: No information for the competition in 2023
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 2023 – TBD
11. National Parent Teacher Association's Reflections Program
This program offers students an opportunity to showcase their artistic talents and gain recognition while also providing access to the arts, which can boost their confidence and success both in the arts and in life. Students participate in the appropriate division for their grade level, which includes Primary (Pre-K – Grade 2), Intermediate (Grades 3-5), Middle School (Grades 6-8), High School (Grades 9-12), and Special Artist (open to all grades). They can submit their completed works of art in any of the available arts categories, including Dance Choreography, Film Production, Literature, Music Composition, Photography, and Visual Arts.
Deadline: February 1, 2023
12. White Bear Center for the Arts Visual Arts Contest
The White Bear Center for the Arts is sponsoring a High School Visual Arts Contest for students in grades 9-12 in the Twin Cities Northeast Metro Region. The contest is a juried art show that offers cash awards, publication opportunities, and other prizes, and the selected artworks will be displayed professionally in WBCA’s Ford Family Gallery.
Deadline: Wednesday, November 1, 2023 – Friday, March 8, 2024 at 11:59 PM
Those are the top 22 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 art portfolio creation process, to help you define your style and direction for the future artwork.
Details about the class are below!
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.
Students will dip their toes into the world of publishing-chapbook making. Participants will write and polish 4 poems and 1 short story or creative non-fiction, assemble their work into a portfolio, and publish it in a stylish, professional manner in the form of a print or digital chapbook. Students will be given a training in InDesign to create a completed chapbook.