Do you know about the Massachusetts Art Education Association’s annual Flag Contest? Youth Art Month Committee Chair Amy Hussey has some ideas for you to make participation this year easier!
Each year MAEA hosts a statewide flag contest open to all student artists in Massachusetts. Every visual arts educator in the state is invited to submit up to ten flags for the contest. “Flags” are essentially posters created on paper and don’t require any special equipment or supplies. The winning design is printed on a fabric flag by the MAEA Youth Art Month committee and displayed.
There are four categories (k-2, 3-5, 6-8, 9-12) with generous prizes for winning artists AND their teachers in each category. And the Grand Prize winning flag is sent to represent Massachusetts at the National NAEA convention! What an honor for a young artist to have their work displayed in a national capacity to represent their state!
I know the idea of adding “one more thing” to an art teacher’s already packed schedule and curriculum can feel impossible, but I have some tips and tricks to make participating quite doable and well worthwhile.
First, I make participation in the contest a requirement for one grade level only. Students in all grades are encouraged to participate as time allows, or they can create a flag at home if they don’t have enough studio time.
I find the flag contest the perfect jumping off point to teach about the work of graphic designers. In our highly visual environment, it is essential young people learn to recognize the influence of graphic media on the feelings they elicit and the choices we make. We then work as a class to examine a variety of print and digital media paying attention to the font, images, colors and even symbols. It is exciting to see the light bulbs come on as young artists begin to recognize some of the subtle messaging presented. This is followed by small groups who work together to identify examples of graphic design and share ideas about the target audience, the intended message, and how that was communicated with images and text.
The following class period I introduce the flag contest and the criteria for entry. With a quick Google search, we looked at several previous winning flags. Students are asked to look at the flag and see if they can deduce what the theme or message was the year the flag was created.
Finally it is time to start brainstorming ways one might represent the theme of the year’s contest. Last year the theme was Art Connects Us – I was impressed with the ideas students shared including, puzzle pieces, bridges, plant roots, gears, hands, etc. We also included a google search for symbols and images showing connection. Students then went on to generate several ideas and select one to develop further into a draft on the same size “rough draft” paper. When artists were satisfied with their idea and had checked spelling, they moved on to Final Flag paper.
I chose to leave the media options open to anything that particular grade level has experience working with. This is a great option for my students as they don’t require much support around the technical skills of using media and student motivation is increased with the media choices available.
Being able to submit the flags digitally is another bonus. No trip to the post office! And I was able to use the physical flags around the school to promote our program and the importance of visual arts education.
I hope you will find these tips helpful and that you too will participate in the 2023 Youth Art Month Flag Contest. Registration details coming soon!