The Creative Youth Awards: a local competition for young artists

Archie Williams senior Jade Kelly earned a prize for their 2023 Creative Youth Awards photography submission, Purgatory.
Archie Williams senior Jade Kelly earned a prize for their 2023 Creative Youth Awards photography submission, Purgatory.
Image courtesy of the Bay Area Creative Foundations website

The Bay Area Creative Foundation, a nonprofit organization founded in 2019, aims to support and promote artists through award programs. Starting in 2021, the foundation has hosted an annual award program, the Creative Youth Awards (CYAs), which gives high school students in the Bay Area the opportunity to submit art. Winners selected by a panel of judges in a wide range of mediums win a cash prize and an awarded title.

The Creative Youth Awards are free to enter, with the only requirement being that the participants currently attend high school and live in one of the nine Bay Area counties. Submissions for the 2024 Creative Youth Awards opened Oct. 2, 2023, and closed Dec. 13, 2023. It featured seven categories for submissions: creative writing, dance, film, music performance, original music, photography, and visual art.

Archie Williams Senior Jade Kelly edits photos on their computer in the Archie Williams library. (Betsy Engelhardt)

Over the past few years, several students from Archie Williams have submitted pieces and won awards for their work. Archie Williams senior Jade Kelly won a 100 dollar prize for their photography submission titled Purgatory in the 2023 Creative Youth Awards.

Jade enjoyed how gratifying their experience was and encouraged others to participate in the awards.

“It’s such an honor to have your art recognized… You’d be like, ‘Wait, I’ve put a lot of effort into this.’ I really put a lot of effort into this, and it was shown to be worth it,” Jade said.

A panel of judges, chosen from local artists, college professors, and art organizations, reviews and scores all submissions. Another panel is designed to provide personalized feedback by assessing the winning submissions. The panels are also separated into categories with three judges per art form who are well-accomplished in their fields.

The CYAs’ website gallery displays every submission from each year, but entries close after the first 2,500 submissions. The Bay Area Creative Foundation has received the MasterClass Grant every year, allowing them to give every participant a free, year-long subscription to MasterClass, an online platform that teaches a wide range of topics from art to science through video lessons created by professionals.

The awards range from the title of Special, with a 100 dollar prize, to the title of Presidential, with a 1,000 dollar prize. While the judges award most of the prizes, the founder chooses the Presidential award winners.

Archie Williams senior Milan Wood won an Exceptional award from this year’s CYAs for their film Smeared. Milan created this film with a group during the annual one-day Marin School of the Arts (MSA) film challenge at Novato High School.

The film won first place, and the audience voted it Best Production Value. 

“Smeared is an introspective look into navigating through the loss of someone important. It centers around a story of two clowns: Mopey and Rosie. We specifically chose clowns because they offer an overly dramatized lens that allows for a more powerful and easily identifiable way to understand the character’s feelings,” Milan said.

Since the first awards in 2021, the Creative Youth Awards has recognized many young artists and encouraged them to continue expressing their visions. Kirstin Bach, program director at the Bay Area Creative Foundation, is proud of the foundation’s progress so far and looks forward to the future of the organization.

“Over 4,900 students from the San Francisco Bay Area have participated to date, and we will have granted 288,000 dollars in awards… The Creative Youth Awards program is growing every year, and we plan to continue that growth. Our first year we had around 200 participating students and this year we had over 1,800. This year we were able to give over 109,000 dollars in award money directly to students,” Bach said. 

Each year, the Bay Area Creative Foundation hosts a ceremony to recognize the winning artists called the Creative Youth Celebration, which they will hold in June for the 2024 winners. The submission for the 2025 Creative Youth Awards will open early Oct.

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    LibbyJun 20, 2024 at 7:41 PM

    I loved reading this article…it’s really well written, and full of interesting information about the people who won awards, as well as helping me understand what the Creative Youth Awards actually are. Well written, Betsy Engelhardt.

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