When Artwork Doesn’t Work: Art students remain undeterred following rejection at competition

Sweat quickly drips from freshman Talia Hall’s face as she waits for the judging of her clay vessel. Meanwhile, many of her peers also at this scholastic art competition have their artwork featured in the gallery, meaning their work has received the highest rating possible. She stands there, eagerly waiting to see her vessel among the other winners.

While success at art competitions is often the primary objective for an art student, failure to place does not mean the artist is inadequate. In fact, nearly every artist who attends these competitions is satisfied with his or her work, no matter the results of the competition.
The regional Visual Arts Scholastic Event (VASE) decides whether the student will earn a medal and have her artwork judged at the state level or go home empty-handed. The artwork is critiqued using a rating scale of 1-4, with 4 being the highest, and 1 being the lowest. A rating of 4 means the student secures a medal and advances to the state-level competition, and a rating of 3 means the student does not get a medal and cannot advance. Hall has strong thoughts about the judging. She recently took part in VASE, but she did not win a medal.

“I was a bit upset about the judge’s reaction, but the art competitions are very competitive,” Hall said. “Of course, not all judges are going to like what piece you have.”
Still, Hall values her art.

“When I do something I do it how I like,” Hall said. “ I try my best on it. It was my first project, and I liked it.”

Sophomore Michelle Martinez received a medal with the highest rating of 4; however, her artwork was not judged for state when it was supposed to be.

“When I saw that my artwork wasn’t in the showcase to be judged for state, I thought I didn’t get a 4,” Martinez said. “The following Monday I found out that I actually did win a medal and got a 4. It was just a miscalculation that didn’t get me judged for state.”

Art teacher Janine Hughes understands the frustrations Hall and Martinez experienced during VASE. She believes competitions can seem unfair and judging not always accurate.

“People have very strong subjective opinions about art,” Hughes said. “I know many of those judges who don’t even teach art or have never taken an art class. They are just there to make money on a Saturday.”

Similarly, Hughes also has passionate thoughts about the competitors.

“Just because one person doesn’t like your art doesn’t mean other people won’t like your art, and it doesn’t mean that your artwork is good or bad,” Hughes said. “You don’t ever let one person, especially at VASE, determine your worth. That is ridiculous.”

Hall agrees with Hughes. She remains unaffected and tenacious after the VASE competition.

“I was satisfied with my work,” Hall said. “At the end of the day, as long as you know you did your best and you tried your best, you should be satisfied.”

Instead of allowing the competition to discourage her, Martinez feels more fervent about continuing to take art class and create art for herself.

“I love art, and I am going to continue to take it,” Martinez said. “I love what I do, even if it doesn’t end up going to the state competition.”