Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Olympics of the Visual Arts

Today I served as a judge for the Olympics of the Visual Arts at the Saratoga City Center in Saratoga Springs NY, sponsored by NYSATA (NY State Art Teachers Association).  OVA is a creative competition for students. 

Student work on long-term projects was submitted in the following categories: drawing, painting, sculpture, architecture, fashion design, illustration, photography, numismatic design.  They could work individually or in teams, and they were judged in the categories of elementary, middle, and high school.  Each piece was displayed with a portfolio showing their research, planning, and thought process. The content and presentation of the portfolio was part of the judging, which was based on a rubric.  Some of these were absolutely amazing!

I helped judge the photography category, which I ironically did not photograph when I took the rest of these pictures.  Due to timing, I don't have photos from the drawing, painting, and illustration categories either, and really only got a chance to glance at them, since I was there primarily to serve as a judge and that kept me busy!

The students also had to complete a spontaneous project on-site, and these were also adjudicated.  The scores were added together with the long-term project scores for their total.

Above and below are several samples from the sculpture category.  The challenge was to re-design the classic lighthouse and re-create it as a monumental sculpture that will serve as a coastal beacon or a beacon of light in the darkness.  I've tried to include things in the photo to indicate the monumental size of these sculptural pieces.  This mushroom beacon below is structured from pieces of broken mirror.  Very cool!
The lighthouse below was an homage to Sandy Hook.  There are 26 'robots' hidden throughout the lighthouse, representing the children whose lives were taken in this tragedy.

This lighthouse below fascinated me, though I didn't get a chance to look at the accompanying portfolio.  The little waterfall next to it was a creation based on the spontaneous assignment.

And of course I needed to photograph this dragon lighthouse for you!

Again, I didn't read the accompanying literature, but this monumental piece really impressed me.

And now for a few sample from the architecture category, with the theme 'a conceptual skyscraper'.  These pieces were all amazing!
I think this one below is a hospital.
The Primary Place - a school, I presume?  Don't you love the Mondrian theme?  I think I see another waterfall on the floor next to the sign.

An elementary team created this adorable Seuss-a-Scraper!

Fashion designers had to design an outfit for themselves and their 'pet', based on an artist, art period, or art movement and created entirely from paper.  Inspirations below were Starry Night, Impressionism, and Klimt.

I'm actually not sure what category this piece below was in.  But it was provocative, for sure.
Numismatic designs below were currency based on American artists.
The photos below, all shot with my iPad, aren't great, but I love the homage to Judy Chicago's Dinner Party in this piece's presentation.
Here's a couple of close-ups:

The photography category assignment (which I judged) was to tell a visual story with a moral ending, using no more than 12 photos.  The presentations were unique - from displayed on stacked boxes, to a spinning star, to a 2-sided display with two separate endings, and more, many were sculptural pieces above and beyond the photographic storytelling.  Very impressive!

In a time when education seems to be all about testing and assessment, this day showcased real learning.  The kids had to solve problems that did not have one specific answer; in order to do this they had to do research, brainstorm, storyboard, test ideas, figure out how to manipulate materials, and document their process.  The creativity and uniqueness of solutions were impressive, and I'm convinced that they did a lot more learning than if they were just preparing to fill in bubbles on a test.  We need to protect and preserve arts education!  Nobody does this as well as we do!


  1. I am so envious of the fact that you got to serve to help support this amazing event as much as I am envious that your local/regional area offers it to their students. I have never heard of this type of thing and I would love to be able to either jump in on it (if I can find it locally) or even start it! Thanks so much for sharing!!!

  2. Wow! These are some really great projects! I'd love to be a fly on the wall in some of those classrooms to see how the teachers present information and the projects to these students!

    1. I should have added, OVA is EXTRACURRICULAR! These projects are NOT teacher-directed. The project challenges come from OVA, and are done by the kids with just some guidance and coaching, but they are not teacher-presented class projects. Jen, you are in NYS, so you should look into it and give being a team next year! I know most of the work I photographed was high school, just for the WOW factor, but there was great middle and elementary work too. Each category, along with place 1, 2, & 3 winners, had one 'Most Creative' award across all grade levels. In photography, our Most Creative award went to a middle school team!

  3. I am such a sucker for architectural projects -- love all of these! Also, the idea of having the portfolio documenting planning process is sooooo sophisticated. Wish kids were exposed to this kind of thinking and reporting more often. Thanks for sharing!!

    1. Christie, the portfolios were very impressive, and really enhanced the projects. It was really interesting to see the thought processes that led to many of the decisions for the final product.

  4. Thanks for taking us on another fun outing! I just looked up and you have like almost 1,000 readers! That is incredible! I remember the days of under 100:) It's amazing!!

    1. Not 1000 yet, but it's hard to believe that in three short years I'm closing in on such a crazy big number!

  5. This is so cool! So many possibilities for an event like this.

  6. After searching local papers and not finding a mention of OVA, I was thrilled to find your blog. I am the first grade classroom teacher of Joey and Ty, who created the Seuss-a-Scraper with Kathy Bushek, our wonderful art teacher, as their mentor. Having never attended OVA before, I was so impressed with the amazing artistry, creativity, vision, and problem solving abilities of all of the teams. OVA is a hidden gem which deserves a spotlight!

    1. Thanks so much for your comment! I agree with your 'hidden gem' comment wholeheartedly. It is my understanding that all the various local press agencies are invited EVERY YEAR, and it is rare that any press shows up. (At least that's what was told to the judges.) Sad, but true. I know I did not see anyone who appeared to represent the press, but it's possible that they were there.

      And thanks for your mention of Kathy, too! I know her, as she and I serve as board representatives for our region of the state art teachers association, and I had hoped to see her while I was at OVA. She'll be thrilled to hear your comment. And by the way, I adored that Seuss-a-Scraper!!