Saturday, November 15, 2008

Things that make me go "WOW!"

That was the theme for the Reflections Contest this year.

If you aren't familiar with the Reflections Contest, it's an arts recognition and achievement program put on by the PTA that most schools encourage their students to enter. I remember I entered it a couple times.

The first year I entered I was in 2nd or 3rd grade and the theme was "What Sparks My Imagination." I didn't win anything. I remember seeing my picture displayed way up high on the wall in the kiva at Sunrise Elementary. If you're familiar with art history and "salon style" hanging, that means my picture was really bad. The good stuff is at eye level -- and typically hangs on one line rather than several rows above and below it. It was a poster board sized picture of a rainbow with a pot of gold and a leprechaun.

The very next year, I believe my sister Lisa was in Kindergarten and she entered the Reflections contest. I don't remember what the theme was, but she entered a picture of a rainbow with a pot of gold and a leprechaun. She won a prize.

When Lisa was in 5th grade she decided to enter the music category. She doesn't really read music, but she was always good at sitting down and plunking out little tunes and melodies. The theme that year was something like, "If you could choose your favorite time..." and then you were supposed to create something that answered the question. Lisa's answer to that question was a little song that she could probably still play for you called "It would be Spring." I think it's hilarious that the title of her piece is a literal answer to the question, but not knowing what the question was made the title all the more poetic and abstract. Anyway, she won a prize.

I won't tell the story of when she was in high school and her photography teacher offered extra credit to his students to enter the contest. I'll let her tell it in the comment box if she wants, but long story short, she won a prize. She also broke into the school library and took it down off the wall when the winners were on display. We'll just leave it at that.

My brother Carter was a very good artist and I think he won the Reflections Contest more than once. I wish I had pictures of those. One was crazy with flying cars and cats climbing on buildings.

Anyway, this year I was asked to jury the visual arts category for an elementary school in Kaysville. They split it up into three different grade levels: K-2, 3-5 and then 6th grade. I looked at a lot of things that make kids go "Wow!"

It was interesting how much more boring things got at the higher age levels. You could tell after the 2nd grade kids start to learn how things are supposed to look and be drawn and so all the imagination and whimsy starts to dwindle. There were a couple pictures of rainbows and leprechauns, which made me realize my idea in grade school wasn't all that original.

Here are descriptions of my favorites:

A Kindergartner had a big piece of paper that was all blotchy with black, blue and green colors. It was very minimal. Every now and then I would check the back of the piece to see what they called it. So I looked. "Space."

This one second grader painted a picture of dogs in a field. On the back there was an explanation, "I like my dogs and I think this painting is fantastic because my flowers look so real up against the mountains" -- this kid is basically saying, "I am awesome."

One of my favorites was a picture of three aliens. Each had six arms and was pointing up at the sky: One said, "It's a bird!" Another, "It's a plane!" and the last, "It's my cousin."

Speaking of aliens, check out this picture my 5 year-old niece entered into the Reflections this year:

One girl got a green piece of paper and then drew the word "Wow." She didn't get high marks. Neither did most of the 6th graders. In fact, we didn't even recommend any of the 6th graders' sculpture for advancement. One was a mediocre looking popsicle stick house. Very boring, and how does that make you go "Wow"?

Then there were a couple pieces that were really lame. Remember how you would get the tissue paper squares, wrap them on the head of your pencil and glue a bunch of them on a piece of paper to create a picture of something?

Well one was a jack-o-lantern. On the back the sixth grader (sixth grader!) said, "I chose a jack-o-lantern because I think they're cool." No you didn't. You chose a jack-o-lantern because it was a class assignment and then your teacher said you'd get extra credit if you entered the contest so you used what you already had, irrespective of the year's Reflections theme.

If I were a parent, I'd encourage my kids to enter the dance category or film, or music. MUCH less competitive. And the criteria for interpreting the theme is probably more lenient. In fact, the music judges were working the same time I was. I still have that "variations on twinkle twinkle little star" in a minor key in my head...


Kelly D. said...

"It's my cousin!" That's the best line I've heard all day.

And thanks for spreading the Robot Space Butterfly love.

jaime said...

I won first prize once for a piece of art that didn't turn out how I intended it to turn out. My art teacher took the liberty of naming the art what she perceived it to be & entered it for me...I've refused to enter a contest since. It sounds like these kids got to name their own art though...lucky

Jergs Family said...

Great post! Thank so much for taking time to come judge for us! Let me know if you ever need me to do anything for you - like bake a casserole, or provide lessons in how not to parent. I'm your gal! Thanks again Laura.

Saule Cogneur said...

Or maybe interpretive dance. Now that's real noncompetition.

SRA said...


I asked Jon Madsen today if I could speak with Mark Browning, by the way.

Ilene said...

At least you weren't put into the Salon de refuses (okay, you know what I mean. I didn't take french).

I won the Tommy the Turkey coloring contest at BYU's LRC. Of course, the judge was my best friend.

Oh, I did enter the LA County Fair's art contest for a picture of a horse. I got a ribbon and everything. Sad thing is that I traced the horse from a book. Yeah, cheating was not beneath me.

Lisa Marie Trent said...

I sure do love these indirect attacks on me as a little sister.
Firstly, I don't remember your picture of a rainbow and a leprechan. Plus, I still drew it. So it was my talent that won. And I didn't get a prize. I got a ribbon.
Secondly, I have NO clue what this high school photography thing is...I didn't even know that they did reflections in high school, so instead of ME telling the story in the comment box, why don't you enlighten me.

Laura Lee said...

Lisa, I would never attack you on my blog. Again, I was trying to illustrate that you have more artistic talent than I do.

Sigh. Anyway. I'll ask you about the photography contest thing later.

Lisa Marie Trent said...


abel said...

Wow. I can't believe they're still doing that. I remember entering it. I don't remember if I ever won anything, however.

Betsy said...

Holey Cow! I entered a reflections contest "What Sparks my imagination when I was little too! My sister wrote a song for it and won a prize. She also got to sing it for the whole school. Man being little is so cool. I like you even more now that I know you are creative and always have been. You should have won a prize!