Group seeking entries for annual art, essay contests

The city of Columbus is asking young people to express just how welcoming their community truly is.

As part of the annual Human Rights Commission J. Irwin Miller Art Contest and Benjamin M. King Essay Contest, students are encouraged to creatively respond to a question local government leaders have been asking frequently: Is Bartholomew County a welcoming community?

This year’s theme is intentionally broad to allow students to explore the concept of being welcoming and inclusive as creatively as possible, said Aida Ramirez, Columbus Human Rights Commission director.

Additionally, asking children if they live in a welcoming place causes them to subconsciously strive for inclusivity, Ramirez said.

“If you put the idea in their head, they’ll start to hope that they live in a welcoming community,” she said.

Students in fifth through 12th grades are eligible to enter one or both of the contests. One winner from each category will be selected from three divisions:

Division 1: Grades 5 and 6

Division 2: Grades 7 and 8

Division 3: Grades 9-12

The art contest allows students to use traditional art or a multimedia presentation to respond to the question.

Students who choose to write an essay are limited to a 1,000-word response to the prompt.

The commission provides all entrants with historical context to help inspire students’ responses.

In addition to a short essay on the history of civil rights in Indiana and Columbus, this year’s contest “tool box” includes vocabulary related to human rights issues — with words such as “acceptance,” “discrimination,” “oppression” and “social justice” — as well as quotes from local civil rights advocates, newspaper clippings and historic art.

A panel of anonymous judges will choose the six winners. Each winner will receive$75, a copy of an award-winning book and tickets to the Human Rights Commission annual dinner, where they will be recognized for their work.

Last year’s winners received a book written by 18-year-old Pakistani women’s rights activist Malala Yousafzai, but this year’s book could be different, Ramirez said.

Ramirez said the commission has already received a few entries for the contests.

All entries must be submitted by 5 p.m. Feb. 15.

How to enter

Students in fifth through 12th grade can enter the J. Irwin Miller Art Contest, Benjamin M. King Essay contest or both. To submit an entry:

  • Students or teachers can hand-deliver or mail an entry to the commission, at Columbus City Hall at 123 Washington St. All submissions must be received by 5 p.m. Feb. 15.
  • Arrange for a representative from the commission to pick up an entry at a local school. Students or teachers must request a pick-up by calling the commission at 812-376-2532 by 5 p.m. on Feb. 12. Then, the entry must be in the school’s main office by 9 a.m. on Feb. 15. Entries should be marked “Attention Human Rights Commission: Art Contest.”

Students should attach their entry forms to their essays and/or works of art. Entries will not be returned.

About the contests

The J. Irwin Miller Art Contest allows students to use traditional art or a multimedia platform to demonstrate their interpretation of this year’s theme, “Welcoming Community.” There are no size or type requirements for the art contest.

The Benjamin M. King essay contest asks students to explain what living in a welcoming community means based on their own experiences and perspectives. Essays should be no more than 1,000 words.

Because judging is anonymous, students should only write their names on the entry forms, not on their works of art or essays.

Author photo
Olivia Covington is a reporter for The Republic. She can be reached at or 812-379-5712.