2021 Theme | WATER RISING
A CREATIVE CHALLENGE FOR TEENS WORLDWIDE
The 10th annual Ocean Awareness Contest is a platform for young people to learn about environmental issues through art-making and creative communication, explore their relationship to a changing world, and become advocates for positive change. Students ages 11-18 from around the world are invited to participate.
Animation by Ely German, Ocean Awareness Contest alumna & Visual Art Judge
The ocean makes life on Earth possible.
The ocean regulates global climate, produces more than half of the oxygen we breathe, and holds nearly 97% of Earth’s water. Global ocean systems largely influence life on land, even hundreds of miles from a coastline. Salt, fresh, warm, or cold, all water is connected through the water cycle.
We live on a water planet.
Like our human bodies, 70% of Earth is water, and this water is continuously in motion: it rises from the ocean, creates clouds in the sky, and returns to land as rain or snow. This precipitation soaks into the ground; collects in freshwater streams and lakes; is taken up by trees and plants; and sustains every living being it encounters on its journey—bacteria, fish, insects, birds, mammals, and of course, humans. When you drink water, you are consuming water molecules that have been around the world, cycling through Earth’s ecosystems for billions of years. All life needs water, and where there is water, there is life.
The 2021 Ocean Awareness Contest theme WATER RISING challenges students to explore and understand their connection to water, and to creatively communicate the need to protect this vital resource and life-sustaining relationship. What are the stories we need to tell about water to sustain and conserve it for current and future generations of life on Earth?
CONTEST DEADLINE: JUNE 14, 2021How to Enter
Submissions are accepted in:
- Visual Art
- Creative Writing
- Interactive & Multimedia
- Performing Arts: Music & Dance
- Poetry & Spoken Word
WATER RISING Prompts
The 2021 Ocean Awareness Contest theme is WATER RISING. Your submission(s) should respond to one of the following prompts:
- PROMPT 1: Global warming affects the water cycle, fueling extreme weather events, such as hurricanes and droughts. Warming seas are also contributing to sea level rise around the world. Whether too much or too little, water is the primary way we will feel the effects of climate change. How do you feel the effects of climate change where you live? How will this change within your lifetime?
- PROMPT 2: We are all interconnected through water. What does it mean to be up- or downstream from one another? Where does your water come from, and what is the journey it takes to get to you?
- PROMPT 3: Though water is a basic human right, more than 1 billion people do not have access to clean and safe water worldwide. Access to clean water is increasingly threatened by pollution, privatization, and climate change, but these threats do not impact us all equally. Water contamination and environmental injustice overwhelmingly affect Indigenous communities, people of color, and the poor. How is water a lens through which we can understand and fight for justice? Consider water as a mirror of our society—it reflects back to us who we are. What do you see in the mirror?
- PROMPT 4: Clean water is not only necessary to sustain human communities, but all life on Earth. There are many movements rising up to protect water and all those who depend on it. Who has historically led these movements? Who (and what–for example, policies) are our water protectors?
- PROMPT 5: Think about the role that water plays in your life, and how that ripples out to connections in your community, society, and the world. What memories do you have of water? What is your water story?
Who May Enter
Students ages 11-18 from around the world are invited to participate in the Ocean Awareness Contest. Enter the division based on your age at the time of entry:
- Junior Division: Age 11-14
- Senior Division: Age 15-18
Students can participate as an individual or as a club, class, or group of any size.
All students must provide the contact information for an Adult Sponsor (teacher, parent, mentor, etc.).Start Your Submission
- Gain knowledge about water’s importance to all life on Earth. Dive into Bow Seat’s Resource Studio to learn more about water and its connection to climate change, health, justice, and culture; find artists and organizations taking action to protect our blue planet; and discover ways that you can get involved in conserving our planet’s most vital resource.
- Grow your skills in communication, critical thinking, creativity, and environmental advocacy. Use your artwork to raise awareness for critical issues impacting our blue planet.
- Build your portfolio and make art in your preferred medium, or practice a new one! Add to your resume with a participation certificate.
- Showcase your talents worldwide. Through art exhibitions, publications, social media campaigns, and scholarships, Bow Seat uplifts diverse youth voices to advance dialogue and participation in ocean conservation and advocacy.
- Join Bow Seat’s global community of 18,000+ young people who care about the ocean, environmental justice, and climate action. Be inspired by the work of other young creators around the world.
- Be eligible for special opportunities, like the Future Blue Youth Council, a diverse group of young people working together to advance Bow Seat’s mission and to empower fellow peers to advocate for the environment.
- Earn cash awards of up to $1,500!
Ocean Awareness Contest Awards
Cash awards are presented to winners in each of the categories at both the Junior and Senior Division levels. There are no requirements for what you must do with your cash award; we hope that you will use it to further your passion for the environment and your creative talent.
Additional Contest Awards Available in 2021
Check back to learn about new additional awards that may be offered in 2021!
We All Rise Prize
IN PARTNERSHIP WITH ARTIST JASON TALBOT
This year, to better fulfill our mission, Bow Seat is making a greater investment in emerging creators of color by sponsoring the We All Rise Prize, with awards totaling $15,000 specifically for youth in the U.S. who self-identify as Black, Indigenous, or Latina/o/e.
Ten $750 awards in both the Junior Division (ages 11-14) and Senior Division (ages 15-18)—a total of 20 awards—will be offered to students in the U.S. who identify as Black, Indigenous, or Latina/o/e in the 2021 Ocean Awareness Contest, and whose entries demonstrate notable artistic achievement in their chosen category. Cash awards are not restricted and can be used for tuition, art supplies, or personal expenses.
Voice of the Sea Award
In Partnership with Poet/activist/educator Tayllor Johnson
As the Ocean Awareness Contest has grown over the years, young artists have continued to push the boundaries of our categories in ways that have intrigued and moved us. The new Voice of the Sea Award was inspired by receiving a growing number of spoken word poems—pieces that truly came alive through performance. To celebrate this powerful mode of expression, Bow Seat is recognizing two spoken word poetry submissions with Voice of the Sea Awards at the Gold-level in each age division: one $1,000 award for a Junior submission, and one $1,500 award for a Senior submission. Entries must follow the requirements for submitting in the Poetry & Spoken Word category.
Bay State Award (Massachusetts students only)
All Ocean Awareness Contest participants who reside in Massachusetts will be automatically considered for the Bay State Award, a special recognition to celebrate the creative young artists, thinkers, and activists in our home state! From the Housatonic River to the Quabbin Reservoir to the Atlantic Ocean, water connects us all and plays a wicked important role in the Commonwealth’s economy, culture, and health of our human and non-human residents. Up to 3 winners in each age division will each receive a $250 cash award.
Hometown Award (Boston, Massachusetts students only)
This award recognizes talented students in Bow Seat’s hometown of Boston, Massachusetts. Eligible participants must demonstrate financial need. Up to 3 winners in each age division will each receive a $250 cash award.
Students’ families must have a combined annual household income of less than $50,000.
Students must be residents of Boston or its neighborhoods: Allston, Back Bay, Bay Village, Beacon Hill, Brighton, Charlestown, Chinatown-Leather District, Dorchester, Downtown, East Boston, Fenway-Kenmore, Hyde Park, Jamaica Plain, Mattapan, Mid-Dorchester, Mission Hill, North End, Roslindale, Roxbury, South Boston, South End, West End, West Roxbury.
Winners will be required to verify their eligibility by submitting a proof of residence as well as valid document(s) that confirms their household income.
South Coast, Cape & Islands Award (Massachusetts students only)
Thanks to the generosity of the Island Foundation—which is committed to the conservation of marine and coastal resources in southeastern Massachusetts—we will be offering two $250 cash award in each age division to Ocean Awareness Contest participants who reside on the South Coast of Massachusetts, Cape Cod, Martha’s Vineyard, or Nantucket.
SOUTHCOAST, CAPE & ISLANDS AWARD
Students who are residents of a South Coast, Massachusetts, town (Acushnet, Dartmouth, Fairhaven, Fall River, Freetown, Marion, Mattapoisett, New Bedford, Rochester, Somerset, Swansea, Wareham, or Westport) OR a resident of Cape Cod, Martha’s Vineyard, or Nantucket will be automatically considered for a South Coast, Cape & Islands Award.
Publishing, Art Exhibitions, and Special Opportunities
As a winner, you may have a special opportunity to showcase your talents worldwide while raising awareness of ocean issues to a broader community. Bow Seat organizes art exhibitions, pop up shows, and social media campaigns; curates anthologies of art and poetry; finds opportunities to publish student writing; and showcases all winning student work in our online gallery. As part of Bow Seat’s student art collection, your creative piece will help to educate and inspire audiences to take action!Upcoming Events & Exhibits
Awards for Educators
If you are a teacher or youth program coordinator who uses the 2021 Contest in your physical or remote classroom, we want to hear from you! Bow Seat grants Educator Innovation Awards to acknowledge the efforts of individuals who are teaching students about ocean issues and empowering them to be creative stewards of our blue planet. Educators can nominate themselves or a colleague.Learn More