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This Year’s Best Local Contests for Creative Kids

From making zines to directing films, there’s an opportunity for all kinds of young creatives

Angelica Lai
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Published on: January 24, 2020

tween girl painting

Contests are a great way to motivate young creatives to produce their best work and give them the recognition they deserve for their efforts. Plus, a chance at getting published, cash prizes and bragging rights doesn’t sound too bad either!

We rounded up some of the most exciting contests in 2020 for youths in the Puget Sound area. Whether your kid likes writing poetry or plays, making videos, coloring, taking photos or engaging in other creative endeavors, we hope they’ll be inspired by these great prompts and opportunities.

Emerald Youth Review

The scoop: Look to the great outdoors for inspiration and submit your best creative work to the Emerald Youth Review, a literary review and blog dedicated to art and writing by local Asian American students. The review has a new theme each month, so be sure to check back for fresh prompts. Email your submission to youthreview@emeraldparents.org with your school, grade and an optional headshot.

Prizes: $10 gift card and publication in the Emerald Youth Review

Eligibility: Asian American students in grades 3–12 in the Puget Sound area

Deadline: August 21, 2020 is the next submission deadline, with a new deadline every month

Washington State Zine Contest

The Scoop: Zines are a great way for kids to self-publish and express themselves on paper. For those unfamiliar, zines (pronounced “zeens”) are homemade magazines or booklets on any topic. By participating in the Fifth Annual Washington State Zine Contest, kids can make history come to life through the use of historical materials from the collections of the Washington State Library, Washington State archives and their local library. Past winning zines in the youth categories include “Hanford: The Complex Legacy Left Behind” by Mia Widrow and “1910 Stevens Pass Train Disaster” by Sonja Rasmussen, Kaelyn Van Duzer and Morgan Bong.

Prizes: $75; the winning zines for each category will enter the collections at The Washington State Library, Timberland Regional Library and The Seattle Public Library

Eligibility: Washington state residents in grades 4–12 (adults can enter, too, in a separate category!)

Deadline: Feb. 29, 2020

Washington History Day Regional Contest

The Scoop: History buffs with creative minds will love this annual History Day Contest. The state hosts eight regional contests across Washington and challenges middle and high school students to become historians by turning their research and analysis into a dramatic performance, multimedia documentary, museum exhibit, website or historical research paper. The 2020 theme is Breaking Barriers in History.

Prizes: Winners will advance to a state contest, and the top two in each category at the state level will compete in the national contest. Acknowledgements include category awards, scholarships, outstanding affiliate entry awards and special prizes.

Eligibility: Washington state students in grades 6–12

Deadline: Varied, from Feb. 29, 2020–March 26, 2020, depending on region

Wing Luke Museum Year of the Rat Coloring Contest

The Scoop: Celebrate Lunar New Year and the Year of the Rat with a ratical coloring contest! Entrants can show off their skills and color sensibility by painting and decorating the provided coloring sheet. Judges will select the top 12 entries, then the public will vote for their favorites online. Bonus: Kids who participate can earn free admission to the museum with their submission (and half-price for accompanying adults).

Prizes: Seattle Attractions Experience (valued at over $700); three additional runners-up will receive family passes to various Seattle attractions

Eligibility: Children ages 12 and younger. Entries must be submitted in person with participating child present.

Deadline: March 31, 2020

Washington State High School Photography Competition

The Scoop: Don’t lose focus on this awesome high school photography contest! Formed by a group of high school photography instructors in the ’90s to elevate student photography, the Washington State High School Photography Competition now offers the chance for young photographers to have their works exhibited in the Seattle Art Museum, see their photograph on a Jones Soda bottle and even earn some prize money. Categories include traditional silver gelatin B&W, abstract, animal, documentary, street photography, portrait and more. This contest has an entry fee.

Prizes: Best in show $250; first place in a category $100; Jones Soda label prize and more

Eligibility: Washington state students in grades 9–12

Deadline: April 25, 2020

Holocaust Center for Humanity's Writing, Art and Film Contest 2020

The Scoop: How does the Holocaust relate to your personal life? How do individual actions make a difference? The Holocaust Center for Humanity is challenging students to bring the past to the present in their Writing, Art and Film Contest through two prompts. Students can submit writing under 1,000 words, flat art or a short film of less than three minutes based on a local survivor’s story (using the Survivor Encyclopedia of Washington State) and how it impacts, affects or inspires them. Students can also write a letter to Gov. Jay Inslee arguing why Holocaust education should be required in Washington State schools.

Prizes: First place $200; second place $100; third place $50 for each category. Runners-up will have their submissions displayed in the Holocaust Center of Humanity and on the center’s website.

Eligibility: Students in grades 5–12 from Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Montana and Alaska

Deadline: May 1, 2020

National Film Festival for Talented Youth (NFFTY)

The Scoop: What started as an idea by three Seattle-based teenagers in 2007 is now a full-blown international festival for young filmmakers under the nonprofit The Talented Youth. The organization aims to support young artists in media arts and nurture the next generation of filmmakers. (Their youngest filmmaker to date was 5 years old!) If you’re interested in making movie magic, submit your feature, short, documentary, music video, animation or experimental films to NFFTY’s annual contest — and maybe you’ll see your film on the big screen in October. This contest has an entry fee.

Prizes: $500 awarded in various student and non-student categories. Two filmmakers in the Pacific Northwest will be selected to attend TheNextFilmFestival International in Odense, Denmark. Specific Jury and Audience awards will be announced closer to the festival, so check back!

Eligibility: Film’s director(s) must have been 24 years old or younger at time of filming.

Deadline: April 10 (early), July 17 (final)

SAL’s Annual Elaine Wetterauer Writing Contest

The Scoop: Every year, Seattle Arts & Lectures holds a writing contest to celebrate students’ wisdom, creativity and heart through poetry, prose and comics. The contest is presented in partnership with dozens of schools throughout the Puget Sound region. Last year’s theme was inspired by Zadie Smith’s essay collection “Feel Free.”

Prizes: Winners and honorable mentions in each category. Winners will be published on SAL’s blog. Past winners also read on stage at a SAL public program.

Eligibility: Students in grades K–12 who attend Writers in the Schools partner schools.

Deadline: TBA

More local youth contests to look out for in early 2021:

  • MoPop’s “Write Out of This World” is a science fiction and fantasy short story and comic contest for students in grades 3–12.
  • Young Playwrights for a Change is an annual playwriting competition for students in grades 6–8. The national competition was hosted by Olympia Family Theater in 2020.
  • Puget Sound Educational Service District’s Annual High School Art Show Competition is an annual artistic celebration open to students in grades 9–12. Finalists in regional shows are invited to participate in the Superintendent’s High School Art Show.
  • Letters About Literature invites students in grades 4–12 to write a letter to an author (living or dead) about how the author’s work changed their view of the world or of themselves.

National contests worth knowing about:

  • Always wanted to see your work on Google’s homepage? Good news! Google’s Annual Doodle Contest is now open to U.S. youth artists in grades K–12. This year’s theme is “I show kindness by…” The national winner will receive a $30,000 college scholarship and more.
  • Scholastic Book Clubs have tons of art and writing contests for kids of all ages.
  • Students around the country are invited to try their hand at designing a U.S. Kids Magazine cover in this annual contest. This year’s theme is “What is your one wish?”
  • U.S. residents ages 13–18 have the chance to see their ensemble compositions performed and recorded by professional orchestras in the National Young Composers Challenge.

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