Last Updated on December 3, 2020
This article contains a comprehensive list of local, national and international high school Art competitions for students aged 13–18 years. It is regularly updated with painting, drawing, design, sculpture, video, architecture and fashion design competitions from around the world and focuses on those that offer significant prizes, fame or glory.
Competitions can be a goldmine for Art students, offering money, scholarships, product vouchers, overseas trips, promotional opportunities and other prizes. With international digital submissions often permitted, students can win prizes that convert handsomely to a local currency. As well as the monetary benefits, prizes and awards can provide excellent fodder for university applications or CVs/resumes. The fame and social media attention garnered from a winning entry can also be just what is needed to launch a creative career.
CASE STUDY: Shania McDonagh, from Mount St. Michael Secondary School, was awarded €1,500 for coming first place in the Texaco Children’s Art Competition. Her work became a viral sensation, featured on popular websites such as the Irish Times, Yahoo, Huffington Post, Buzzfeed, ViralNova, Collossal and Bored Panda. Her winning pencil drawing was shared on Facebook over 100,000 times and was viewed by an even larger number of people. ‘Shania McDonagh‘ is now a frequently searched term in Google, as well as the phrase ‘Shania McDonagh art for sale‘. (To capitalise on this publicity that results from winning a competition, we recommend that keen Art students create their own website to promote their work and grow their fanbase – especially if you are hoping to establish a career in a creative field).
Shania’s winning entry is the stunning pencil drawing below, drawn from a photograph by James Fennell:
Feel the fear and do it anyway
Many high school students fail to enter art competitions, as they are daunted about the standard of work required (especially after viewing technically outstanding entries such as Shania McDonagh’s drawing above). They worry that their artwork would never compare to this and that they have no chance of winning, deciding the competition is not worth their time and effort. If you worry that you are not good enough, it is worth remembering that:
- No one needs to know that you have entered. You have nothing to lose and everything to gain.
- Everyone else has the same fear as you, so the number of people who enter competitions is surprisingly low – especially for competitions that are less well known (like many of the ones on this list). Of those who do enter, many are ‘whole class’ submissions, where a teacher has required whole class participation. Your serious competitors are far fewer than you think.
- Judges sometimes favour unexpected work – winners are not always those who produce exceptionally realistic artwork. Your creative approach might be just what the judge is looking for.
- You may have already produced appropriate work as part of a school project or may be able to tailor an upcoming school project around a competition brief. Digital submissions can also mean it is possible to enter multiple competitions using the same work (check particular rules of each competition to make sure this is allowed), so this can mean that much less time is required to submit an entry.
The art competitions below are categorised by location, beginning with international competitions and then focusing upon those for specific countries.
International Art Competitions
Have you always wanted to design your own bag with the prospect of having it manufactured and produced? This Design-A-Bag competition has prizes of US$500, as well as a free trip to Hong Kong to attend events for the competition. The best overall design receives a four week leather goods pattern making course in Milan, valued at $4,200. Applicants must submit three illustrations of their design including two different views of the bag and a technical, scaled drawing. Descriptions, swatches and colours must also be included in the submission. The competition is open to all design students and hopeful designers around the world. No entry fee is required.
Doodle 4 Google is an annual competition designed especially for school children, providing them with a unique opportunity to have their design featured on the Google homepage. The competition runs in many different countries with a changing theme each year. Children must submit their doodle along with an application form and short description of what they have created and why. All submissions are grouped and judged in age groups and are critiqued in terms of artistic merit, creativity, and how well the theme is communicated through the artwork. The winner has their Doodle featured on the Google homepage for 24 hours, with prizes for the student and their school. The winner of the 2014 US Google 4 Doodle competition (shown below) won a $30,000 college scholarship and a $50,000 technology grant for their school. Google also donated $20,000 to provide improved facilities in 10 other schools in Bangladesh, in honour of the chosen design.
EarthX is hosting an Eco-Art Contest, calling upon students ages 5 to 22 to create an artwork and essay that inspires sustainable action with the theme “No Time to Waste.” Winners receive cash prizes ranging from $125 to $1,500. EarthX also run a Youth Film Challenge in which students aged 10 to 22 create a 50-second film, with winners awarded up to $12,000 total in prizes.
This is an international children’s art competition encouraging collaborative artwork (created by groups of children age 16 or under). For example, artwork may be created by a few students, a whole class, or even whole school. The competition centres around concern for the environment and wildlife. The 2021 theme is ‘Healing Nature- a Planet on the Edge.’ A range of mediums and techniques may be used, including painting, sculpture, textiles, collage, and recycled materials.
The annual International Photography Awards (IPA) is open to photographers of any kind, residing in any country across the globe. There is a vast range of categories to enter in and many prizes to be won. The winners of the main categories are invited to attend the Lucie Awards. The grand winner is titled International Photographer of the Year and receives a cash prize of $10,000 provided by AtEdge. Cash prizes of US$5,000 and US$2,500 are also awarded to the winners of the non-professional and student categories. 40-50 images from both professional and non-professional entrants will be displayed in an exclusive show in New York. The curated images also travel to other countries to be exhibited in photo festivals and galleries. Entry fees range from USD$15-USD$35 depending upon the category entered. All entrants must be 18 years or older.
This international competition invites students age 9-18 to submit artwork focused upon conflict and its impact. The 2021 theme is “The Unheard Voices of Conflict: Stories from Around the World,” and can involve a response to historical or current conflict.
The annual Science Without Borders Challenge invites students to create a media project to raise awareness of the need to preserve, protect and restore the world’s oceans and aquatic resources. The theme and requirements of the competition changes each year but remain relevant to conservation of the world’s oceans. The 2021 challenge relates to mangroves. The competition is open to school students across the globe, 11 to 19 years of age. A US$500 scholarship and awarded to the winning entries. Admission is free.
The Sony World Photography Awards is free to enter and open to anyone aged 12 – 19 years old. Entrants are invited to submit photographs with the theme varying each month.
The Walt Disney Family Museum, located in San Francisco, runs a Teen Animation Festival International (TAFI) celebrating animation created by budding artists aged 13 through 19. Previous awards have included family memberships to The Walt Disney Family Museum, portfolio reviews with industry professionals, and Bay Area professional animation studio tours.
The Artist’s Magazine hosts an annual art competition that is open to artists anywhere in the world who work with traditional, two dimensional media. Student or beginner applicants (young artists aged 16 years and older) must have been enrolled in a post-high school art programme or have pursued art on their own for no more than 4 years. There are five 1st, 2nd and 3rd place prizes in the Student/Beginner Division. 1st place winners receive US$150, 2nd place US$75 and 3rd place US$50. Winners in this division are also featured in The Artist’s Magazine and receive a 1-year membership to the NorthLight VIP Programme, which includes a yearlong subscription to The Artist’s Magazine. There are five categories to enter: ‘Portrait/Figure’, ‘Still Life/Interior’, ‘Landscape’, ‘Abstract/Experimental’ or ‘Animal/Wildlife’. Entry fees range from US$15-US$20.
The Japan Quality Assurance Organization and International Certification Organization Network, in partnership with UNICEF Tokyo, have hosted the International Environmental Children’s Drawing Contest since 1999. The competition provides children with an opportunity to think about the environment in an appreciative and sensitive way. Entries must be a hand drawn artwork. All entrants receive a participation prize, with 48 of the top entries receiving special awards. The contest is free to enter for children 7-15 years old from all over the globe.
The United Nations wants to get ordinary citizens to showcase their creativity by getting involved in fun and exciting challenges. Competitions aboutn various themes are frequently organized throughout the year, from crystal growing to short films on healthy nutrition to political cartoon drawing contests. Each challenge raises awareness about a particular topic and brings creativity to real-world situations. Most challenges have no entry fee, and with monetary prizes of up to $10,000 awarded, this is definitely something to check out!
American Art Competitions
CelebratingArt seeks to motivate and reward children by having them enter the CelebratingArt contest for the chance to have their work published in a book. Paintings, computer art, sculptures or drawings by any student from grades K-12 in the USA may be entered in the competition. 10 winners from each grade group (K-3, 4-6, 7-9, 10-12) and their art teachers will share over US$5000 in prizes. Winning works will be compiled in a full-colour, hardback book that will be available for purchase. All winners win a free copy of the art book.
This competition is open to high school students in the 19 Western states and three U.S.-flag islands whose Governors participate in the bipartisan Western Governors’ Association. Students must create two-dimensional works inspired by their state, drawing upon sources such as state history, landmarks, natural resources, parks, monuments, communities and culture etc. The overall winner receives $1,500, with second place awarded $750 and third place $500.
The Congressional Institute provides educational material on Congress to the public. They sponsor an annual visual arts competition for high school students in hopes of encouraging artistic talent across the United States, in each congressional district. The competition is open to high school students only, in grades 10-12, enrolled in schools in the United States. Paintings, drawings, collages, prints, mixed media works, computer-generated art and photographs are accepted for judging. Winning works are exhibited for one year.
This competition is sponsored by the Ford Motor Company Fund and Lawrence Technological University. Graduates from Lawrence Technological University’s Transportation Design and Industrial Design programme have a 100% placement in the industry, with offers from large companies such as Ford, VW and Nissan. High school seniors in the United states who are interested in enrolling in these courses straight after high school are encouraged to enter. The creative brief requires applicants to design either a small sport utility vehicle or related products that reflect the traditional aesthetic of the classic Ford Bronco. 1st, 2nd and 3rd place prizewinners are awarded US$52,000, US$40,000 and US$24,000 scholarships toward their chosen programme at Lawrence Technological University.
This competition is open for all students in the United States (as well as children of military members stationed overseas) from kindegarten through to Grade 12. Students are asked to create artwork inspired by NASA’s science, technology, aeronautical and human exploration activities under the theme “Virtually Everywhere.” A range of media can be used.
Each year, the National YoungArts Foundation grants up to US$10,000 in monetary awards, as well as inviting its winners to take part in master classes and courses with world-renowned artists and professionals. Submissions can be entered into the visual, literary, design or performing arts categories. The competition is held annually and is open to students in the USA, aged 15-18 (or in grades 10-12). International students who are studying in the USA on a student visa are also eligible to apply. Application to YoungArts requires an online submission and audition tape or portfolio. Applications cost US$35 per category. Applicants are eligible to submit in more than one discipline or category.
The Scholastic Art & Writing Awards was launched in 1923 and has become the largest source of scholarships for young, creative students in the United States. Winners of the Scholastic Art & Writing Awards that have gone on to become icons in their respected fields include Andy Warhol, Sylvia Plath and Stephen King. Students enrolled in schools across the United States and Canada in grades 7 through to 12 can apply. There are a total of 28 art and writing categories to enter. Scholastic partners with over 100 visual and literary arts organisations each year to award students and their schools with over US$250,000 in prizes and scholarships. There are opportunities for submitted works to be published in Scholastic publications including the National Catalog and The Best Teen Writing, which are distributed to schools and libraries nationwide.
This competition is for kids aged 4-15, and requires students to submit an original hand-drawn “dream car” using crayons, markers, pencils, paint, and/or watercolors, along with a description of the car. K-12 teacher lesson plans are provided. There are three age categories, with first place (US$750), second place (US$500), and third place (US$250) prizes.
UK Art Competitions
This competition is for aspiring sculptors who are full or part-time students over the age of 18. The prize is a place on a two day sculpture course, with accommodation included. You must submit a drawing or plan of the sculpture you would like to make on the course, as well as a paragraph describing the idea.
In this competition, you are asked to write a short essay about an artwork from the Art UK website that interests or intrigues you. Only the following students are eligible to enter: Years 10-13 students from England and Wales; Years 9-12 students from Northern Ireland; and S3-S6 students from Scotland. Entries should include a photo of the chosen artwork, as well as the artwork title and artist name, and should be accompanied by signed verification that the essay was written by you. If you are contemplating entering this competition, you may like to read our article about how to analyze an artwork.
Ireland Art Competitons
The Texaco Children’s Art Competition began in 1955 with the goal of fostering a young love of art in children. Original drawings, paintings or prints using any media and on any subject matter are eligible for submission to the competition. Winners of the Young Adults category have the chance to win cash prizes of up to €1,500. Special merit awards are also granted for young adults, including Art & Hobby art boxes valued at €150. The children’s categories also have the chance of winning up to €400 of Art & Hobby vouchers. 1st, 2nd and 3rd place winners and special merit award winners are invited to the Texaco Children’s Art Awards Ceremony where their work will be displayed. The competition is free to enter and each person can submit up to two individual artworks. Entrants must be under 19 years old by the competition closing date and must be residents of Ireland.
Australian Art Competitions
This art competition is open to all Australian high school students, year 11 – 12. First prize is Art supplies and framing valued at AU$2,625, with AU$1,500 for the school. There is an entry fee of AU$15.00.
Each July, the Cossack Art Awards attracts thousands of creative types to the small town of Cossack in Perth, Australia. The annual award is fast becoming a nationally recognized event and provides the highest acquisitive prizes of all art competitions in Australia. In conjunction with multiple national organisations, the Cossack Art Awards provides over AU$90,000 in monetary prizes to exceptional candidates each year. There are 9 categories to enter in with one artist winning the ‘Best Overall Artist’ prize of AU$15,000. 330 entries are accepted into the competition, with submissions closing once this number has been reached. All works are exhibited and sold, with the artist receiving a 27.5% commission. Applicants must be Australian residents aged 16 years and over. There is an entry fee of AU$35 per artwork.
The Blake Society is a non-profit organization that seeks to encourage the exploration of spirituality, religion, belief and human justice through art. Each year since 1951, The Blake Society has organized the Blake Art Prize, which consists of 4 separate awards. The John Coburn Emerging Artist Award is an AU$6,000 award for emerging artists. The competition is open to Australian residents and all applicants must pay a $55 handling fee for their work.
The Moran Contemporary Photographic Prize honours Australian contemporary photography. The theme for this prestigious, annual competition is ‘Contemporary Life in Australia’, with particular emphasis on day-to-day life. There is the chance to win up to AU$5,000 for students entering the competition and each winner’s school wins an equal amount to further develop their arts curriculum. Winning pieces are featured permanently as part of the Moran Arts Foundation Collection. Australian residents or citizens are eligible to enter the Moran Contemporary Photographic Prize competition. All entries must have been taken in Australia. There is an entry fee of AU$25 per application.
Sponsored by The Young At Art Initiative, this competition is open to Australian primary and secondary school students and is free to enter. Children can choose to enter into any one of the following categories: drawing, painting, photography or computer art and will be judged according to 3 different age groups (junior: prep to grade 4, middle: grade 5-year 8 grade, senior: year 9-12). There are awards for both students and teachers to be won. Honourable Mention, Gold Award and Silver Award winners receive a trophy and all other finalists are awarded a special certificate. There is also the Art Teacher Award and the Gold Apple Teacher Award to be won for outstanding teachers. All awards are presented at the annual Young Australian Art Awards held in October/November each year.
New Zealand Art Competitions
Canon EYEcon is a competition for emerging photographers and filmmakers in New Zealand. Tertiary students currently studying photography or film, assistant photographers, film assistants, and Year 12 and 13 high school photography students are invited to take part in the competition. Photography submissions require a selection of three A4 photographs, as well as a 500-word supporting paragraph. Film applications require a 1-3 minute video that is representative of the applicant’s style and genre, and a 500-word supporting paragraph. Overall winners receive $3,000 Canon dollars to spend on Canon equipment, NZD$1,000 cash, the opportunity to work with professional photographers and media, and more.
The Hokonui Fashion Design Awards is open to New Zealanders of all ages and is not restricted to those studying or working in design. There are two sections to enter: the school section for primary-secondary school students and the open section. Submissions into the school section incur a $25 entry fee and designs can be submitted into the ‘Streetwear’, ‘Nightlife’ or ‘Recycled’ category. 1st and 2nd place winners in this category will be awarded NZ$500 and NZ$100, respectively. There are no design restrictions and any materials can be used that are suitable to the category entered. There are also special awards to be won including the â€¨Young Designer Award for applicants under 21 (winner will receive a NZ$4000 package, including registration to Auckland Fashion Week).
The Waikato Society of Arts presents the New Zealand National Youth Art Awards, a competition established to support visual arts in the community. New Zealand artists between the ages of 15 and 27 are able submit their artworks into the competition. All creative pieces in any media, including two-dimensional, three-dimensional and video, are accepted for judging. The National Youth Art Awards provides over NZ$4000 in prize money to outstanding applicants. As well as 1st, 2nd and 3rd place prizes, there is also a ‘Best Digital’, ‘Best Young Waikato Artist’ and ‘People’s Choice’ award to be won.
If you have a competition that you would like to submit for this list, or have found a competition on this list which is no longer running, please contact us. NB: We do not intend to list every competition, but rather those that award significant prizes and/or fame to those who win. Some competitions are run purely as a mechanism for garnering traffic or interest in a company or business, and offer minimal prizes or benefit to the Art students who enter. Competitions of this nature are not included. Thank you!
Amiria has been an Art & Design teacher and a Curriculum Co-ordinator for seven years, responsible for the course design and assessment of student work in two high-achieving Auckland schools. She has a Bachelor of Architectural Studies, Bachelor of Architecture (First Class Honours) and a Graduate Diploma of Teaching. Amiria is a CIE Accredited Art & Design Coursework Assessor.