Judging for Culture Shapers

The last round of judging.

Culture Shapers is a wonderful opportunity for high school students in the Houston and surrounding area.  If you are a student and want to know more, check out their website. I have been honored to judge Culture Shapers since they began, I believe that was 12 years ago.  I often try to write something to the students about their process and the judging. Here is this years letter.

I love judging for Culture Shapers.

This is to  all of you who participated in the sculpture portion of the competition. There were so many, many wonderful pieces. I have heard it said that because the schools had more time and the sculpture is judged later in the school year, this made it better for both schools and students. It certainly showed in the work.

I was bowled over with the quality of work.  I had invited a friend to help judge, Lori Betz from Betz Gallery and Art Foundry in Houston. By the way she is having an opening April 14th you are all invited. She walked in and said, “I thought this age group was high school.”  You impressed her.  Doing shows, making connections, getting involved with the art community this is an important element of  being a successful artist.   I wish I would have known this at your age.   If you did not place or did not win don’t be discouraged.  You have to keep trying and pushing yourself.  I have said it year after year, “judging is subjective.” It depends on who the judge is.

In the last round there were some piecesI really wanted to advance.  I have never had this difficult of a decision on where to place those final post its to advance the final 12.  I have, asked Culture Shapers to get me the names of some of the teachers of the students on certain pieces. I’m just so impressed about your work, and the work that the school is doing I would love to come and talk to you all.

Here are some hints for future contests

Make sure you push yourself all the way to the end. Many times a judge won’t pass a piece because of poor framing or poor base.  Push yourself and if you think it looks like a shlock job on the base, then redo it.  There was one piece in particular that I wanted to advance to the final round. I had three other pieces I was deciding on, and I passed over the one I really liked just because of the poor quality in the connection to the base.

If something is done intentionally, even a icky base, tell us in your description. Matter of fact, tell us everything in your description.  Give us your process, the meaning, the emotion behind the piece.  I judge purely on emotion.   If a piece gets me emotionally then you got me. I can’t believe how sparse the entry forms are. I even asked if the kids were limited with word count in this field.  There has been many times,  over the years that the description sold the piece.

I am not sure that this is a given, but I have noticed this year that all of the pieces are about the same size. I tried to think over the years if all of the winners were the same size and I do believe they are.  Now this is my theory. the first round is held in a big room, the lighting stinks, large pieces are placed next to smaller ones, and many times a piece next to yours just overpowers yours.  This is unavoidable, though I did ask them to begin to group them by size.  It does not help that unlike other ares of judging we cannot see all of our first selections together.  Culture Shapers does not like to move the pieces around.  It makes it very hard to see where a little yellow post it has been placed by another judge who may have noticed a great piece that I overlooked.

At the end of the final round I have written some thoughts on our judging papers.  These are thoughts to the artist. This year I have offered  some individuals a internship in my studio.

Let me say that I am always looking for interns to help out here.  So keep that in mind.

Be bold, don’t hold back- your career as an artist is in your hands.  Meet people, get to know those in the arts.  If you would like further encouragement let me encourage you regularly. You can sign up for my online newsletter on my blog at https://creativesculpture.com/blog.

Congratulations to you all, even entering is a huge accomplishment.

Be creative

Bridgette Mongeon – Sculpture Judge

Leave a Comment