Judges on the Complete Package

As many of you know, we recently completed our Regional Scholastic Art Award adjudication. It is extremely interesting to be a part of this process each year and to listen to the things the judges say. I thought I would share  a few recurring themes in a series of short posts.

Abuse by Angela He, American Visions Nominee
Abuse by Angela He, American Visions Nominee

The adjudication process goes something like this: A group of three judges views the entries in each category and goes through a number of rounds of reviewing the work to separate the strongest from the rest. These are then sorted and advanced through additional rounds until the judges have determined the works that will receive Gold Key, Silver Key, or Honorable Mention awards. While some decisions are made fairly quickly and unanimously, most involve disagreement and discussion. I want to share comments from these discussions to provide some little nuggets of insight into the process.

A great number of discussions focus on whether or not the artwork represents “the whole package.”

Now, my gut tells me this would happen one way or the other, but it should be noted that there are three criteria the judges are asked to consider. They are originality, technical skill, and the emergence of a personal vision. Whether the judges are just following these criteria or, as I believe, just going with what they know as art professionals, comments to advocate for or against advancing an artwork often sound like this:

“This is a powerful image, but technically it’s just not strong enough.”

or

“It’s done very well, but I feel like I’ve seen this a thousand times.”

The comments obviously vary at each occasion, but so often it comes down to whether or not the artist is presenting “the whole package” In this awards program, with so many excellent submissions, it’s not enough to do one thing well… It’s the holistic nature of art, and it’s the three criteria at work.

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