Chris Schulz Published

Students Encouraged To Submit Artwork For MLK Creative Contest

A container of art and school supplies sits on a table in a first grade classroom. In the background a colorful carpet with numbers on it can be seen.
Art supplies
Chris Schulz/West Virginia Public Broadcasting

West Virginia students have a chance to create original art and essays that celebrate the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. for the annual creative contests.  

The contests, which have been conducted for more than 30 years, are a collaboration between the Herbert Henderson Office of Minority Affairs and the Martin Luther King, Jr. State Holiday Commission. Students are invited to submit original posters, art, music, films, or essays.

This year, students taking part in the Essay, Music and Film Contests are asked to reflect on the quote: “Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.” 

Those taking part in the Poster Contest must focus on the Martin Luther King, Jr. quote: “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.”

Jill Upson, executive director of the Herbert Henderson Office of Minority Affairs and chair of the Martin Luther King, Jr. State Holiday Commission said the variety of formats reflects the work students are already doing in their classrooms.

“What’s nice about accepting the different formats, the watercolor, the acrylic, the mixed media, is that these are all styles that they’re taught in their schools,” she said. “Their teachers, a lot of times can kind of assist them and answer questions that they might have while they’re preparing their submissions for the contest.”

Upson said the competition is a great opportunity not only for students to learn about Martin Luther King, Jr. but also to showcase their talents and gifts.

“Having this contest is just an annual opportunity for a new generation of students to learn more about Martin Luther King, and then for the teachers as well to reinforce the lessons that they have been teaching about every year regarding Martin Luther King, Jr,” she said.

Upson said she is always impressed by students’ creativity and encourages all students to submit.

“We post all of the posters on easels around the West Virginia Culture Center, so that during January and February, people can go there and see the work that the kids have done,” she said. “I’m always impressed with all of their artwork.”

Winners will be announced before the end of December 2023 and will be invited to participate in the Martin Luther King, Jr. State Holiday Commission Awards Luncheon on January 14, 2024.

“Don’t assume that it’s going to just be the cream of the crop,” Upson said. “As far as the entries that we receive, we want to see everyone’s entries, we want to see this art. Everyone has something to offer.”