Judges on Assignments

Unless another important one springs to mind, I think this will be the last of the judges’ comments I share from this year’s regional Scholastic Art Awards adjudication. As an added bonus, I will have shared all five of our American Visions Nominees in posts related to the awards program.

Hong Kong Alley by Felicia Ip, American Visions Nominee
Hong Kong Alley by Felicia Ip, American Visions Nominee

For those unfamiliar with American Visions, these are nominees for an equivalent to “best in show.” These are five of the most excellent works our judges encountered, and one of them will be selected to receive the American Visions Award during national adjudication. If you want to see all five artworks, check out the other four Scholastic Awards posts including: Scholastic WinnersJudges on the Complete Package, Judges on Distractions, and Judges on Travel Photography.

The last of the judges’ comments I want to share is regarding assignments. If you recall, there are three criteria for the Awards: originality, technical skill, and the emersion of a personal vision. With these in mind, you might correctly conclude that it’s not a good thing when the judges say something like…

It looks like a classroom assignment.

or

I feel like we’ve seen several other artworks from this same assignment.

When the judges perceive an artwork as fulfilling assignment requirements, it is difficult to also see it as an original work that is showing the student’s personal vision. In fact, seeing evidence of an assignment usually means they are seeing the teacher’s vision.

One assignment seen frequently in our area is a requirement for the admissions portfolio for the Rhode Island School of Design. RISD asks applicants to demonstrate their drawing skills and creative approach to a subject by making a drawing of a bicycle. As a result, when judges see a bicycle drawing, they assume it is for that particular purpose and it may sway their thinking about it. In the case of the Scholastic art portfolio category, the bicycle drawing usually becomes a distraction, and stands out as an artwork that does not belong as a unified part of the body of work.

Teachers help their students avoid the down side of the classroom assignment in two ways: by presenting assignments that are open ended and have the potential for a wide variety of student responses, and by encouraging students to select their most original works to the awards.

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