Everything You Need to Know about the PTA Reflections Contest

Agatha Hunnicutt

Every year, the PTA (Parent Teacher Association) hosts a nationwide student art competition called the Reflections contest. Each year a different theme is selected to inspire the artwork submissions. “I Will Change the World By…” is the 2021-2022 contest theme. The goal of the competition is to give students an opportunity to express themselves in whatever artistic form they like. Submissions can include dance choreography, film production, literature, music composition, photography, or visual arts. There have been a few submissions from West students this year, but we won’t know how well they did in the competition for a couple of months.

I talked to Heather Mae, who runs Reflections here at West, about last year’s contest: “Last year, three students’ submissions went on to the state competition,” said Heather. “Matej Marsh, Talia Wheeler and Spencer Robison were honored at the state competition.”

In the Reflections contest, students in pre-K through 12th grade can submit original artwork inspired by the year’s theme. Submissions are then split into grade divisions (to ensure that no 1st graders are competing against 12 graders). At West, 7th and 8th graders can participate in the middle school division and 9th-12th graders can participate in the high school division. A group of judges then look through all the submissions from our school and pick their favorite pieces of artwork, which then move on to the regional level. Judging is based on the quality of the artwork, how the art is related to the theme, and the artistic statement of the artist. The top artwork from the regiontal level moves on to the state competition. The final level of the competition takes place at the national level, where the top submissions from each state compete.

Last year’s theme was “I Matter Because…” and Metej Marsh, one of West’s state level winners, had a really interesting take on this theme. His artist statement explains how his artwork connects to the theme that year and how he interpreted the topic. “White. Male. Privileged. Because of my race and gender, I am statistically more likely to graduate from college, more likely to live in a safe, affluent neighborhood, and more likely to hold a good job than my classmates who are of a different race and gender.  I am also statistically more likely to be a racist. This is why I matter. I matter because how I treat my classmates today and my coworkers tomorrow can either continue or end the racial and gender inequality in this country.  I have a responsibility to break the cycle. What I do matters. Who I am matters. I matter.”

I asked Ms. Delfin, one of the art teachers here at West, about her thoughts on the program. “I would describe the PTA Reflections contest as a way to celebrate students’ talents, abilities, and skills in the arts. It’s a very old program that’s really asking students to explore their thoughts, feelings, and ideas based on a theme—usually a very positive theme. But it’s very much open for interpretation. They want to see a unique interpretation of the theme.” Ms. Delfin added that the entries that stand out or approach the topic from a new point of view are more likely to win than submissions that are cliche or similar to others.

During my interview with Heather Mae, she explained the benefits of the contest: “The Reflections program provides opportunities for recognition and access to the arts, which boosts student confidence and success in the arts and in life. Involvement in the arts is associated with gains in math, reading, cognitive ability, critical thinking, and verbal skill. Arts learning can also improve motivation, concentration, confidence, and teamwork.”

Matej Marsh mentioned some other benefits of the program, “It’s also a great way for kids who might not otherwise have many awards to stand out on their college application. Plus, West High PTSA gives out monetary awards to all award recipients, so that’s an added bonus.”

If you want to participate in Reflections, make sure to submit your artwork by November 19th. If you email Ms. Delfin at [email protected], she may even be able to get in a few late submissions. Additionally, if you’re interested in participating next year, you can get started now. The 2022-2023 theme is “Show Your Voice!” Look out for a future article about the Reflections contest results and winners. We’re rooting for our West submissions!

Art by: Matej Marsh
Photo by: Spencer Robinson