Creativity and Conservation

State-Fish Art contest and CAPNM Art Calendar Contest promote fun projects for students at home amid school closures

By Maggie Dresser
A past State-Fish Art contest entry featuring the blackspotted cutthroat trout, Montana’s state fish. Courtesy Image

While schools are closed across Montana, student art contests in the Flathead are still moving forward, and organizers are encouraging students to take advantage of project opportunities that adhere to social-distancing practices.

Both the State-Fish Art contest, organized by Wildlife Forever, and the Community Action Partnership of Northwest Montana (CAPNM) Art Calendar Contest are continuing their planned art contests, which both work to inspire conservation — wildlife and energy, respectively — in students and the community.

“It gives them a great creative outlet while they have the time,” State-Fish Art organizer Jim Vashro said.

While the State-Fish Art contest begins as a regional competition through Flathead Wildlife, Hockaday Museum of Art, Glacier Country Fly Fishers and Flathead Chapter of Trout Unlimited, students’ work will be chosen to enter the national Wildlife Forever contest.

The regional contest invites students in grades K-12 to submit art featuring the blackspotted cutthroat trout, which includes westslope and Yellowstone cutthroat, to promote Montana’s state fish.

Vashro says the contest encourages native fish management education, and since the contest is paired with an essay, students learn a lot about fish species.

“There’s a lot of emphasis on native fish management, but I find people don’t know much about native fish and particularly Montana state fish,” Vashro said. “We’re fortunate we have a state fish that’s a beautiful fish.”

While Vashro hasn’t organized the contest in 10 years, he decided to reintroduce the competition now that he’s retired and has more free time.

“It’s a great program,” he said. “It both promotes interest in native fish and produces some great artwork.”

But he says school closures might reduce the number of entries because when class is in session, teachers encourage students to participate.

Winning entries for the State-Fish Art contest hang on a wall. Courtesy photo

Tracy Diaz, the executive director of CAPNM, has similar participation concerns over their art contest, too. Last year, for the first contest, organizers reached out to art teachers to spread the word. But with closed schools, Diaz says outreach will be more difficult this year. Like Vashro, however, she’s hoping the art contest will inspire kids to do a fun project while they’re stuck at home.

While the State-Fish Art contest focuses on fish conservation, the CAPNM Art Calendar Contest focuses on energy conservation. The top 13 entries are transformed into a 12-month calendar, including an extra entry for the cover.

Diaz says the contest is not limited to gas or electricity conservation, and kids are encouraged to submit anything from water conservation to littering.

“We were pretty impressed with some of the submissions and creativity,” she said. “Last year was our first time and we thought it was pretty successful.”

“I just think it’s a good motivator to give them an opportunity to see their work in print,” she added. “It’s kind of fun.”

Students of all ages in Flathead, Lake, Lincoln and Sanders counties are eligible to participate in the CAPNM Art Calendar Contest, and Diaz says she’s even willing to accept entries from preschool-aged kids.

“If you can get a preschooler to think about conservation education, we’re more than happy to accept a submission,” Diaz said. “We don’t necessarily choose the best artwork; last year we chose the meaning of the art.”

Entries for the CAPNM Art Calendar Contest must be postmarked or submitted to CAPNM’s main office at 214 Main Street in Kalispell by May 31, 2020. Winners will be announced and prizes will be given out no later than mid-June. Winners will receive a $50 gift card. For more information, call (406) 752-6565.

To enter the State-Fish Art contest, submit a 9-inch-by-12-inch horizontal entry with a one-page essay (grades 4-12) and official entry form. Contest rules and information about cutthroat trout are available on the website with instructions for students at Local entries will be judged in grades K-3, 4-6, 7-9, and 10-12 with ribbons and cash prizes of $50, $40 and $30 awarded for the top three places in each.

All entries must be submitted to the Hockaday Museum of Art at 302 Second Ave. E., Kalispell, MT 59901 by 5 p.m. on Monday, April 25. For more information, call Jim Vashro at (406) 270-9914.

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