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15 Art and Design Competitions for High School Students

By Eric Eng

By Eric Eng

a woman creating her artwork

15 Art and Design Competitions for High School Students

Art and design competitions for high school students offer a canvas for young talents to showcase their skills. These competitions span diverse themes and mediums, from traditional painting and drawing to digital art, environmental art, and even fashion and industrial design. They provide a platform for artistic display and encourage students to engage with critical global issues through the lens of art and design.

Whether it’s highlighting the pressing concerns of ocean conservation, delving into data visualization for community improvement, or imagining sustainable futures, these contests invite students to contribute their voices to significant conversations while developing their artistic and design capabilities.

1. FAA High School Competition

  • Location: University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign
  • Cost: Free
  • Eligibility: 9th-12th grade students
  • Important Date/s: Early April​​

The FAA High School Competition, hosted by the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign’s College of Fine & Applied Arts (FAA), stands out among the myriad of art and design competitions for high school students as a unique platform that not only showcases the burgeoning talent of young artists but also provides them with substantial opportunities to further their education and careers in the arts.

American Fine Arts Festival

This competition is open to students in grades 9-12, offering them a chance to participate without any entry fee. Annually, this event attracts submissions across various categories, demonstrating high school students’ diverse interests and talents in art and design.

Winners of the competition are awarded scholarships to attend college and summer programs, directly supporting their educational journey and artistic growth. The FAA High School Competition not only celebrates the creative achievements of young artists but also encourages them to pursue their passions in the visual arts, providing them with recognition and financial support that can be pivotal at this early stage of their careers.

2. Celebrate The West

  • Location: Western U.S. states and territories
  • Cost: Free
  • Eligibility: High school students in Western states
  • Important Date/s: Late April.

Celebrate The West is a distinguished event among art and design competitions for high school students organized by the Western Governors’ Association. It specifically invites high school students residing in the Western U.S. states and territories to express their creativity and connection to their homes through art.

Group of students talking in a room.

This competition is unique in encouraging participants to delve into the rich and diverse narratives of the American West, challenging them to create 2D artworks that reflect what their state and the broader Western region signify to them.

With no entry fee required, Celebrate The West opens its doors widely to young artists who wish to showcase their originality, technical skills, and personal vision. Prizes range from $200 to $1,500, offering recognition and financial incentives to the talented winners.

Through this competition, students can explore and articulate their perspectives on the West’s culture, environment, and history, enriching their artistic journey and contributing to the ongoing dialogue about the significance of this vast and varied part of the United States.

3. Artists to Watch Art Competition

  • Location: Online
  • Cost: $20 for members, $30 for non-members
  • Eligibility: Must be at least 16 years of age as of February 1st of the contest year
  • Important Date/s: Mid-June​​

Students participating in the program through available online courses.

The Artists to Watch Art Competition emerges as a pivotal platform within art and design competitions for high school students and young artists who are 16 years and older, marking their entry into the professional art world.

Hosted by Artists Network, this competition distinguishes itself by welcoming emerging talents who have yet to achieve major awards or grants, offering a unique opportunity for newcomers to gain recognition.

With an entry fee set at $20 for members and $30 for non-members, the competition is accessible to a wide array of participants eager to showcase their skills across five different subject categories, including Animal/Wildlife, Abstract/Experimental, Landscape/Cityscape, Portrait/Figure, and Still Life/Interior.

This competition serves as a significant stepping stone for participants, offering them exposure to a broad audience and the chance to join a community of fellow creatives, thus fostering a nurturing environment for the next generation of artists.

4. Reading Municipal Light Department (RMLD) Art Contest

  • Location: Massachusetts (specific towns)
  • Cost: Not specified
  • Eligibility: Students in Reading, North Reading, Wilmington, and Lynnfield Center, MA
  • Important Date/s: Not specified.

The Reading Municipal Light Department (RMLD) Art Contest stands as a noteworthy initiative among art and design competitions for high school students, particularly for those residing in the towns of Reading, North Reading, Wilmington, and Lynnfield Center in Massachusetts.

Group of students staring at a laptop while talking.

This competition invites students to create artwork centered around electricity, encouraging participants to think creatively about energy, conservation, and their community’s relationship with these essential resources.

Unlike many other contests that seek to draw participants from a broad geographic area, the RMLD Art Contest focuses on engaging local students fostering community and environmental awareness among the youth.

Participants are rewarded with recognition and practical benefits, including certificates for community service hours and gift cards for school or art supplies. Moreover, winners have the unique opportunity to see their artwork featured on the cover of RMLD’s annual report, offering a tangible way for students to contribute to their community while gaining exposure to their artistic talents.

5. National YoungArts Foundation

  • Location: USA
  • Cost: $35 per category
  • Eligibility: Students in the USA aged 15-18 (or in grades 10-12)
  • Important Date/s: The 2025 YoungArts application opens in June 2024.

The National YoungArts Foundation distinguishes itself as a premier organization within the sphere of art and design competitions for high school students across the United States.

Two women talking in the stage.

The foundation showcases the diverse talents of America’s youth by offering young artists aged 15-18 the opportunity to participate in various categories that span the visual, literary, design, and performing arts. It provides significant support to its finalists and winners.

Participants can win monetary awards up to $10,000 and master classes and mentoring from world-renowned artists and professionals. This comprehensive approach to nurturing young talent extends beyond the competition itself, as the foundation also facilitates lifelong learning and growth through its extensive network of alumni, educators, and artists.

The application process, which includes a fee, is designed to be inclusive, allowing students from various backgrounds to showcase their work and gain recognition on a national level. The National YoungArts Foundation’s commitment to artistic excellence and education stands out among art and design competitions. It offers accolades and a pathway to professional and personal development for high school students.

6. Scholastic Art & Writing Awards

  • Location: USA and Canada
  • Cost: Not specified
  • Eligibility: Students in grades 7-12
  • Important Date/s: February 29, 2024

The Scholastic Art & Writing Awards represent a cornerstone among art and design competitions for high school students, with a storied history dating back to 1923. This prestigious program stands out for its broad inclusivity and scope, welcoming entries from students across the United States and Canada in grades 7 through 12.

Three students talking over something on the table.

It offers various categories encompassing traditional art and design disciplines and literary arts, providing a platform for diverse creative talents. The awards have played a pivotal role in the early recognition of some of the most celebrated artists and writers of the 20th and 21st centuries.

Participants can win scholarships and have their works published or exhibited, offering them unprecedented exposure to a national audience. The program’s impact is profound regarding the financial support it provides young creatives and propelling many participants toward further achievements in their artistic and literary endeavors​​through its validation and encouragement.

7. United Nations World Wildlife Day Youth Art Contest

  • Location: Virtual
  • Cost: Not specified
  • Eligibility: Any high-school student
  • Important Date/s: February 6th​​.

The United Nations World Wildlife Day Youth Art Contest serves as a global platform for art and design competitions for high school students, aiming to raise awareness and inspire conservation through creativity.

Female student writing in a desk while holding her phone.

This contest encourages participants worldwide to engage with wildlife and nature preservation themes, offering a unique opportunity for young artists to contribute to global conservation efforts. By focusing on the theme of ‘Partnerships for Wildlife Conservation,’ the competition invites students to explore and depict the collaborative efforts required to protect and sustain the planet’s biodiversity.

Participants are encouraged to use various mediums such as markers, crayons, colored pencils, and paint to express their vision, making it accessible to multiple artistic abilities. The contest highlights the critical role of art in environmental education.

It connects young creatives with the broader mission of the United Nations to safeguard our natural world for future generations. With entries from over 60 countries, it showcases the universal language of art as a powerful tool for change, emphasizing the importance of global cooperation in the fight against biodiversity loss.

8. Congressional Art Competition

  • Location: U.S. Capitol
  • Cost: Not specified
  • Eligibility: High school students
  • Important Date/s: Varies by state, usually around April 15​.

The Congressional Art Competition is a prominent fixture in the landscape of art and design competitions for high school students across the United States. Established to recognize and encourage artistic talent in each congressional district, the competition provides a unique opportunity for high school students to have their artwork displayed at the U.S. Capitol.

Group of students looking at their gadgets while sitting on the stairs.

By participating, students engage directly with their representatives and gain national exposure, showcasing their work to an audience of lawmakers, visitors, and dignitaries. This annual event highlights the importance of arts education and celebrates the diverse creative talents of America’s youth.

The inclusive competition accepts 2D artworks from students across various mediums, thus offering a broad platform for artistic expression. Winners receive the honor of having their work exhibited in the Capitol for one year and recognition from their congressional representatives. This competition exemplifies art’s critical role in our society, underlining the importance of supporting young artists and providing them with platforms to showcase their work​.

9. Sony World Photography Awards Youth Competition

  • Location: International
  • Cost: Free
  • Eligibility: Photographers under 19 years old
  • Important Date/s: The deadline for entries was 5 January 2024 at 13:00 (GMT)

The Sony World Photography Awards Youth Competition is an esteemed segment of one of the world’s most respected photography contests, tailored explicitly for young photographers and standing out among art and design competitions for high school students.

This competition seeks to unearth and promote the talents of young photographers under 19, offering them a global stage to showcase their work. The contest encourages participants to submit images that reflect their personal experiences, visions, and the world as seen through their eyes, adhering to a different theme each year.

This challenges young photographers’ creativity and technical skills and provides them with an invaluable opportunity to gain international recognition early in their careers. The Youth Competition is free to enter, making it accessible to a wide range of applicants eager to share their unique perspectives through the art of photography.

Through its commitment to celebrating young talent, the Sony World Photography Awards Youth Competition plays a pivotal role in fostering the next generation of photographers, offering both encouragement and a platform for their development.

10. Celebrating Art Contest

  • Location: State and National (USA)
  • Cost: Not specified
  • Eligibility: Grades 7-9 and 10-12
  • Important Date/s: April 4, 2024

The Celebrating Art Contest is an influential platform within the realm of art and design competitions for high school students, designed to acknowledge and encourage the artistic talents of young individuals across various grades, including middle and high school levels.

Three students looking at each other.

This contest offers students not only a chance to have their artwork recognized on a national scale but also the opportunity to be published in an art book, thereby providing them with a tangible testament to their creative achievements.

With categories that cater to a wide range of artistic mediums, the Celebrating Art Contest is dedicated to fostering a supportive environment where young artists can flourish. By participating, students can see their work appreciated by a broader audience, further inspiring them to develop their skills and pursue their passion for art.

The inclusive nature of the competition ensures that every participant, regardless of their specific interest or proficiency level, has the chance to showcase their work, making it a valuable opportunity for those looking to gain exposure in the field of art and design.

11. Ned Smith Center Youth Art Contest

  • Location: National (USA)
  • Cost: Not specified
  • Eligibility: 10th, 11th, 12th graders
  • Important Date/s: The application deadline is on June 3, 2024.

The Ned Smith Center Youth Art Contest is a remarkable event among art and design competitions for high school students, focusing on the intersection of art and nature to inspire the next generation of wildlife artists.

A student holding a model of the earth

This annual competition encourages students to engage with and portray the natural world, fostering a deep appreciation for wildlife and the environment through artistic expression. Each year, the contest adopts a new theme, challenging participants to explore various aspects of nature and wildlife, enhancing their creative skills and awareness of environmental conservation.

Open to students of different grade levels, including high school, the Ned Smith Center Youth Art Contest offers young artists a platform to showcase their talents and gain recognition for their work. This contest is unique in its commitment to connecting art with environmental education, making it a valuable opportunity for students interested in both fields.

12. The RSA Student Design Awards

  • Location: Global
  • Cost: £25 (early bird), £35 (final deadline)
  • Eligibility: Young designers and students globally
  • Important Date/s: Submissions open on Jan 31; Early bird deadline on Feb 16; Final deadline on Mar 16.

The RSA Student Design Awards stand as a seminal event in the calendar of art and design competitions for high school students, offering a global stage for young creatives to tackle pressing social, environmental, and community issues through design thinking.

Group of students walking in the campus.

Celebrating its centenary, this competition has a history of challenging students to apply their skills to real-world problems, reflecting its enduring commitment to fostering innovation and social change through design.

The awards are open to students worldwide, encouraging entries that demonstrate not only technical skill and creativity but also a deep understanding of the societal impact of design. Participants are asked to respond to various briefs that address current challenges, making this competition unique in its focus on practical, impactful solutions.

Winners receive significant recognition, including monetary prizes, which serve to further their education and career opportunities in design. The RSA Student Design Awards not only highlight the potential of young designers to contribute meaningfully to society but also underscore the importance of design education in addressing the complexities of the modern world.

13. Science Without Borders Challenge

  • Location: International
  • Cost: Free
  • Eligibility: Students ages 11-19
  • Important Date/s: Early March.

The Science Without Borders Challenge is a notable international contest in art and design competitions for high school students, orchestrated by the Khaled bin Sultan Living Oceans Foundation. This unique competition encourages students aged 11-19 from around the globe to harness their artistic talents to promote ocean conservation, a testament to the power of combining art with science to address global environmental issues.

A male marine biologist holding a clear container with a plant specimen

 

With the theme for the 2024 contest focusing on “Hidden Wonders of the Deep,” participants are invited to delve into the mysterious and largely unexplored parts of our oceans, using their creativity to highlight the importance of preserving underwater ecosystems. The challenge accepts submissions in any non-digital 2D medium, allowing for various artistic expressions.

Entry to the competition is free, removing financial barriers and making it accessible to a broad spectrum of young artists. Prizes range from $50 to $500, offering recognition and economic incentives to the winners.

The competition is judged on quality, originality, and adherence to the theme, with winning artworks showcased on the Living Oceans Foundation’s website, providing a platform for winners to gain international exposure for their work and their commitment to environmental conservation.

14. Ocean Awareness Art Contest

  • Location: International
  • Cost: Free
  • Eligibility: Students ages 11-18
  • Important Date/s: The submission deadline is on June 10, 2024.

The Ocean Awareness Art Contest is a significant and impactful initiative among art and design competitions for high school students that seeks to merge creativity with environmental advocacy. Hosted by Bow Seat Ocean Awareness Programs, this international competition challenges students between the ages of 11-18 to create art that speaks to environmental issues, specifically those affecting our oceans.

aerial view of a coast

The 2024 theme, “Tell Your Climate Story,” encourages participants to explore and express their personal and community experiences with climate change, aiming to foster a deeper understanding and awareness through artistic expression.

Entry to this contest is free, democratizing access and encouraging broad participation from students passionate about art and environmental conservation. The competition offers a tiered prize system with awards up to $1,500, recognizing a wide range of contributions from young artists.

Through its structured competition and generous awards, the Ocean Awareness Art Contest provides a platform for young artists to contribute to the global conversation on climate change and ocean conservation, highlighting the critical role of youth in driving awareness and action.

15. Cooper Hewitt Design Competition

  • Location: Virtual
  • Cost: Not specified
  • Eligibility: Students aged 13-19, individually or in teams of up to 3
  • Important Date/s: Please check back in fall 2024 for program updates

The Cooper Hewitt Design Competition is a standout event among art and design competitions for high school students, focusing on the innovative intersection of data and design to address community challenges.

This virtual competition is open to students aged 13-19, who are invited to explore and utilize data visualization techniques to create impactful design solutions. Participants can work individually or in teams of up to three, providing a collaborative space for young designers to brainstorm and bring their ideas to life.

Once registered, entrants receive guidance on effectively communicating complex data through design to solve real-world problems. The competition progresses through two stages, culminating in a Virtual Judging Weekend at Cooper Hewitt, where finalists present their projects. Criteria for evaluation include innovation, impact, relevance, and communication, ensuring that submissions are not only creative but also meaningful and applicable.

Prizes include certificates, a $500 value gift package from SHOP Cooper Hewitt, and a family membership to the museum, offering winners recognition and resources to further their design interests. This competition exemplifies a modern approach to design education, encouraging young designers to apply their skills toward positive societal change.

Conclusion

As we conclude our exploration of the 15 art and design competitions for high school students, it’s evident that these opportunities play a crucial role in nurturing the next generation of artists and designers. By participating in these competitions, students refine their technical skills and creative thinking and build confidence in their abilities to communicate and influence through their art.

These contests’ awards, scholarships, and recognition are invaluable, opening doors to further education and career prospects. More importantly, these competitions foster a sense of community among young creatives, offering them a glimpse into the broader world of art and design, where collaboration, innovation, and diversity are celebrated. For students poised on the threshold of their artistic journeys, these competitions are not merely contests but stepping stones to a future where their creativity can flourish and make a difference.

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