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Judging Art for the Humans in Space Youth Art Competition

Humans in Space Youth Art Competition
Humans in Space Youth Art Competition

Last evening I finished judging 97 works of space art that has been submitted to the second international Humans in Space Youth Art Competition. It was my good fortune to have served as a judge in the first contest as well. I can’t tell you how happy I am to not only see the contest back for a second year but to also see an explosion in the number of entries submitted.

Contest partners include NASA, DLR German Aerospace Center, USRA (Universities Space Research Association), Lunar and Planetary Institute, Mission X, and the International Academy of Astronautics. The theme the artwork was expected to address is How will humans use science and technology to explore space, and what mysteries will we uncover? With respect to the contest’s goals:

The international Humans in Space Youth Art Competition encourages youth to “Be Inspired, Creative and Heard.” We ask them to think about the future of human space flight and to creatively communicate their ideas, and we promise to make these ideas viewable worldwide. By including the next generation in the planning of the future, the competition aims to enhance their awareness, interest in and support for human space flight, and to allow their ideas to begin shaping the future now.

The contest accepted submissions from March 9, 2012 thru November 18, 2012 from young people of 10 to 18 years of age, split into two groups: 10–13 years and 14–18 years. Submissions were accepted in the categories of visual, literary, musical and video artwork. Along with the artwork, each artist was expected to include an Artist’s Statement of Originality. The purpose of this statement was to provide information that would help judges to understand, appreciate, and evaluate the art. The winning artwork will be woven into displays and performances designed to relay the artists messages to a world wide audience. Most exciting for contest winners is the opportunity that their winning artwork might be displayed in orbit aboard the International Space Station!

Judging the Art

Youth Space Art Contest Entries Judged
The 97 Youth Space Art Contest Entries Judged

I had elected to be a judge in the Visual Art: 2D Visual Art category for the 14-18 year old age group. A special web site had been created for judges to view and rate the art submissions. Each judge is assigned a subset of the submitted art due to the large number of submissions received. When I log in to the system I see the art that has been assigned to me to judge. The only downside to this system is that I am limited to viewing only one work of art at a time (unless I open multiple browser windows).

Visual art judges were directed to judge the art based on the following criteria:

  • Aesthetics (Shapes, colors, textures, flow, proportions, composition, etc.)
  • Skill (Are knowledge of the media or principles of art demonstrated?)
  • Inherent meaning (What is the story or statement?)
  • Creativity (Is the artwork creative and original?)
  • Fulfilled intent (Does it meet the objective to express something about How will humans use science and technology to explore space, and what mysteries will we uncover?)

Additionally judges were asked to consider the scientific accuracy of the art. For example, if your character is walking around on the Moon then they had better be wearing a space suit.

In assigning ratings, judges were expected to assign equal numbers of 4, 3, 2, and 1 star ratings. To better judge the artwork, I downloaded the hi-res version of all the art to my computer. I then used Adobe CS4 Bridge in order to both view the art side by side, rank the art, and sort the art by rank. My methodology was to start from the ends and work inward. By ends I refer to first identifying the strongest and weakest artworks. Identifying 1-star and 4-star submissions was fairly easy. Much more difficult was distinguishing between the 2 and 3 star submissions. Upon completing my initial judging I found that I had the following distribution of rankings:

-Stars- -Allowed- -Given-
4 25 10
3 24 35
2 24 38
1 24 14

My distribution made it clear that my principal course of action was to promote art from the 3 star category to the 4 star category and demote art from the 2 star category to the 1 star category. Promoting and demoting was, predictably, the most difficult part of the judging process. In the end I did achieve the distribution of stars that judges were expected to award – though it was not easy.

The second round of judging will begin later this month with the entire process scheduled for completion in January 2013 and the winners to be announced shortly thereafter.

Links

In my own view, the important achievement of Apollo was a demonstration that humanity is not forever chained to this planet, and our visions go rather further than that, and our opportunities are unlimited.
Neil Armstrong – Apollo 11 astronaut and first person to set foot on the Moon

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