Last night I finished casting my votes as a judge in the NASA Life and Work on the Moon Art & Design Contest. The art contest is open to all high school and college students. This is the third year NASA has run this contest and this is my third year as a judge for the contest. The contest has really grown in terms of the number of submissions received. NASA has Elizabeth Ward, the art contest’s coordinator, to thank for that. Judging the first year was pretty easy in that it didn’t take much time. This year was another matter entirely. The number of submissions has grown dramatically.
The judging criteria has changed somewhat from the previous contests. In the contest’s first year, judges were expected to evaluate submissions based on the Artist Statement (worth 20 points), Artistic Elements (worth 30 points), Creativity (30 points), and Validity (20 points). Dropped from the criteria after the first year was the artistic elements component. This year the judging criteria are Artist Statement (20 points), Creativity and Artistic Expression (50 points), and Validity (20 points).
For the Artist Statement, students are to explain what inspired them, what artistic media they chose and why, and anything else they want to say about their artwork. Not surprisingly the quality of the artist statements was as varied as the quality of the submission.
The Creativity and Artistic Expression was more subjective as there are no really definable standards to guide a judge – other than their own experience. For example there was one artwork that was pretty good artistically but the imagination that went into creating the piece led me to give it more points than I would have on purely artistic grounds. Another judge may have responded quite differently.
In many cases, judging Validity was the most difficult. Validity refers to the scientific accuracy and degree of understanding of the space environment. For example in the case of a painting that consists only of a space suited astronaut walking on the surface of the Moon – does the person really understand that environment? Some artists did not reveal a lack of understanding in their art but did so in their artist statement. Others made their degree of understanding, or lack thereof, apparent in their art. For example, people without spacesuits on the Moon is kind of a dead give away.
In spite of the large number of submissions I felt compelled to vote for all submissions in the visual categories. My rationale was that voting for some but not other works would skew the final results in that the way in which I award points is likely to be different than the way in which other judges award points. The visual categories for the contest are 2D art, 3D sculpture/dioramas, Digital art, and Video. The two categories in which I did not vote were Literature and Music.
The Biggest Pleasure
What I found most rewarding about the experience was having the opportunity to review the art, think about its meaning, admire its quality, and read the artist’s words about their intent and inspiration.
The Biggest Disappointment
What I found most disheartening was that overwhelmingly the art depicted NASA facilities on the Moon. I know it is a NASA art contest but if we are going to have a large scale human presence on the Moon, then realistically it is going to take more than a government agency to make a go of it. When I go to the Moon, I want to hit Starbucks for my latte, stay at the Lunar Hilton, and dine at the local Uno’s. So while many of the students participating in the art contest showed a solid grasp of the lunar environment and what we could do on the Moon, I don’t recall any of them really featuring the role of private enterprise.
Given the recent decision of the Obama administration to cancel NASA’s plans for a return to the Moon, I will be most interested to see what happens with respect to the future of this art contest.
To get details on the 2010 contest, visit the NASA Life and Work on the Moon Art & Design Contest site. You may also want to take a look at the Winners of the 2009 art contest
I previously wrote about the NASA art contest in the following blog posts: