National PTA Art Award Program Enters 50th Year


This year, we’re celebrating the 50th anniversary of the National PTA Reflections program! Reflections was established in 1969 by National PTA Board member and past Colorado PTA President, Mary Lou Anderson. She was a huge advocate of arts education, and truly understood the value arts education brought to the lives of students. We’re thrilled that fifty years later, we’re continuing to further this important work!

What makes Reflections standout, unlike other awards programs, is that students from ALL grades are encouraged to explore ALL areas of the creative arts. This includes dance choreography, film production, literature, music composition, photography, and visual arts. We also offer a special artist division for students requiring special accommodations. Reflections encourages students to use their imagination and creativity to create original works inspired by the annual theme. We welcome all grades, all arts and all abilities.  This year’s theme is Heroes Around Me.

This is especially important because each art form offers unique benefits and skill-building opportunities. Reflections awards and exhibitions also support students by building their confidence and making personal connections to their school and community.

Celebrating the National PTA Reflections 50th Year

To commemorate the start of our 50th anniversary year, here are some ideas, tips and tools for encouraging all students to explore and be involved in the arts. It’s our goal this year to highlight stories of success throughout the program’s fifty years and we have a favor to ask – we want to hear from you! Please share your favorite Reflections stories with us using the hashtag #PTAReflections.

 Reflecting on this year’s theme: Heroes Around Me

It’s important to provide dedicated time and space for students to reflect on the theme. Choose a safe place where students can feel welcomed to express their thoughts, feelings and emotions about the world around them. Each reflection is unique based on individual experiences – where we live, what we do and who inspires us. And that’s what makes creative expression fun! Thinking outside the box and developing a personal voice through art.

Not only does our world influence our interpretations but the theme is also a way to see new perspectives and make new connections.

  • You can start a conversation with a group of students before/after school or lead a discussion with your family around the dinner table.
  • Teachers are also welcomed to use the theme in their classroom to engage students in their lessons or offer extended learning opportunities. Schools can also use the theme to support a grade-wide or school-wide theme.

 Promoting your Reflections Program

We encourage you to promote the theme in visible places across your school and community – Register at PTA.org/Reflections and use our toolkit to promote the theme and your local call for entries. Posters for the school lobby, community library; Video for morning announcements and enewsletters; and use the image bank to have fun creating your own fliers and invitations. Be sure to register at PTA.org/Reflections and visit your state program’s page for all rules, forms and deadlines. These are best shared on bulletin boards and displays in the school lobby, cafeteria, library or any classroom.

 Ideas for Hosting Reflections Events in School and at Home

Here are some ideas on how you can host Reflections events at your school and at home.

Hosting In School

  • Offer a Reflections Club
  • Invite the Whole Family to Your Meeting
  • Host a Family Art Night
  • Setup a Back to School Reflections Table

Hosting At Home.

  • Discover Cultural Heritage through Folk and Traditional Arts
  • Lead a Family Arts Club
  • Host a Party for Kids
  • Take a Family Field Trip

Contact to your state PTA’s Reflections program for all rules, forms and deadlines and register at PTA.org/Reflections to share your participation in the program. Questions? Reach out to your state PTA or email Info@PTA.org.

ED Celebrates Award-Winning Student Art in the National PTA’s Exhibit ‘Believe, Dream, Inspire’

Reposted from U.S. Department of Education’s HomeRoom blog.

Travez

Travez Bradford, recipient of a National Award of Excellence for Music Composition/High School Division, performs his winning rap Believe, Dream, and Inspire. (Photo credit: Paul Wood/U.S. Department of Education)

On January 13, 2015, more than 200 teachers, family members, arts education leaders, PTA members, policymakers, and local-area students came together to honor student artists from 21 states at the U.S. Department of Education (ED) auditorium and art gallery. The young artists – and winners of the 2014 National PTA Reflections program — came to celebrate their works of visual art, film, dance, music, and creative writing based on the theme Dream, Believe, Inspire.

Two dynamic artists performed their winning pieces. Travez Bradford, recipient of a National Award of Excellence for Music Composition, performed his rap Believe, Dream, and Inspire. With a whirlwind of energy, Jillian Miller, winner of a National Award of Merit for Dance Choreography, performed her lyrical dance You Can Be Anything.

Jillian Miller, recipient of a National Award of Merit for Dance Choreography/Intermediate Division, performed her lyrical dance You Can Be Anything. (Photo credit: Paul Wood/U.S. Department of Education)

Prior to the start of the ceremony, Travez, who had traveled with his grandfather from Natchez, Mississippi, talked about his musical inspiration: the gospel rap he experienced at church. His winning composition is in response to his classmates’ fear of performing poorly on tests and failing to graduate, “Believe in yourself when other people doubt you. Dream big, even when some dreams don’t come true. Inspire yourself when others don’t.” Travez now attends community college in Mississippi.

Secretary Duncan launched the celebration by championing arts education, “The arts should be — must be — part of a well-rounded curriculum for every single child.” The National PTA’s Reflections program, he noted, “helps students gain core knowledge — in areas like history, geography, and math — alongside 21st-century skills like critical thinking and problem solving. This program prepares students for success not just in school but in life as well.”

Echoing the secretary, Dawn Small, chair of the Reflections program, observed, “These students … have gained … the ‘arts advantage.’ Their creativity is alive. … Their mind’s eye is awake. … We look forward to great things from them.”

Robert Lynch, president and CEO of Americans for the Arts, underscored the value of the exhibit and audience to help decision makers learn about the transformative power of arts education. To demonstrate that, he presented an information tool developed by Americans for the Arts, a national nonprofit organization for the advancement of arts and arts education. “If we do it right,” he charged, “the return on investment is a better child … a better nation and a better world.”

Otha Thornton Jr., National PTA president, stressed the importance of promoting arts education, observing that, “our children’s education is our future … we are their advocates. We are the conduits of their dreams.”

After the ribbon cutting, Vy Nguyen of Texas talked about her acrylic painting Dream with Eye Wide Open. A recipient of an Award of Excellence for Visual Arts, she developed her skill through sheer determination. Blinking away tears of joy, she shared her dream to graduate from high school and attend college. The silhouetted figure depicted in cap and gown represents this dream amid a class of graduating seniors in an eye full of awareness and hope.

Vy Nguyen, recipient of an Award of Excellence for Visual Arts/Intermediate Division, shares the inspiration for her painting Dream with Eye Wide Open. (Photo credit: Paul Wood/U.S. Department of Education)

One of the most exciting sights of the day was the middle school class from Jefferson Academy of Washington, D.C., critiquing student art. Their art teacher Michelle Green explained their presence, “It’s been a long and arduous process of getting them comfortable with the [art criticism] vocabulary. This is a great opportunity for us to see other kids their own age from around the nation looking at artwork” and to get the desire to “join in these competitions!”

Students from Jefferson Academy in Washington, D.C. critique artwork in the student art gallery. (Photo credit: Paul Wood/U.S. Department of Education)


Isadora Binder is on the staff of the Office of Innovation and Improvement at the U.S. Department of Education.

All Department of Education photos are by Paul Wood. More photos from the event may be viewed on the Department of Education’s Flickr

The Department’s Student Art Exhibit Program provides students and teachers an opportunity to display creative work from the classroom in a highly public space that honors their work as an effective path to learning and knowledge for all. To visit the exhibits or for information about exhibiting, contact Jackye Zimmermann.