In 1964, a simple poster contest called The School Art Program was created to encourage creativity and imagination among school children who were asked to submit their works of art in the form of posters.  Four years later, the official contest committee dubbed “The School Art Committee” was established, which then gave birth to the first School Art Competition during the 1970 Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo.

This poster contest that began almost 50 years ago has blossomed into a successful and large-scale art competition. The School Art Competition boasts  nearly 300,000 entries every year from talented students as young as pre-kindergarteners all the way to high school seniors belonging to any of the 60 private schools and 100 public school districts in the Houston area.  Since its inception, the program has an astounding received 8.5 million entries.

In line with the nature of the event, the theme of the artwork is focused on Western history, culture and heritage.  Each participant submitting an original piece of artwork receives a certificate of merit from the School Art Program.  The contestants compete in different mediums and categories to garner awards for Best of Show, Gold Medal and White, Red, Blue and Rainbow Ribbons. Winners are given the honor of having their entries prominently displayed in the Hayloft Gallery at the Reliant Center throughout the event.  The winners are also eligible for scholarships and workshops from art schools, including the Western Art Academy and the Glassell Junior School of Art. Some qualified high school students may also receive college scholarships. Moreover, some of the artwork from the winners will be auctioned off during the School Art Auction.  In 2011 alone, the School Art Program raised over $1.3 million from the artwork sold at the auction.

Last year, 17 year old Kimberly Agarwal of Katy ISD was honored as the Grand Champion for her winning artwork entitled “Teamwork.” Her winning piece was sold for a record breaking $205,000 during the School Art Auction in 2011. Other talented student artists from the school districts of El Campo, Spring, Shiner, Clear Creek, Warren, Klein, Katy, Victoria and Magnolia also bagged distinguished awards from the School Art competition along with winners from selected public and private schools in different media and categories. The gallery of 2011 School Art winners can be viewed on the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo’s website.

For this year’s competition, approximately 700 pieces of artwork from participating schools in West Sabine, Hudson and Lufkin school districts were displayed from January 14 – 27 at the Museum of East Texas, which hosted the 2012 Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo School Art Program competition.  Judging was held on January 14 and was followed by a special reception for the participants and their families on January 17 from 4 to 6 p.m.

Related: Best Art Fairs In Houston

Hours : Tues to Fri -9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Sat to Sun -1 p.m. to 5 p.m.
Hours are extended on December 19 to 23, Museum is open until 8 p.m.
Administrative Hours: Mon to Fri – 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

According to Ann Reyes, Curator of Education for the Museum of East Texas, the judges from The School Art Committee took the winning artwork with them to Houston after the judging period so they could be displayed at the Hayloft Gallery at the Reliant Center for the duration of the competition.  District judging was held separately at the Reliant Center on January 4, 5 and 6.

The success of this year’s Rodeo School Art competition was made possible through the able management of its coordinators, namely  Melanie Moses and Pablo Torres.

Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo School Art Committee

PO Box 20070
Houston, TX 77225
(832) 667-1064

While the participating students’ artworks are displayed during the duration of the School Art Competition, surely many aspiring young artists will be encouraged to hone their individual craft and show off their creativity and imagination for next year’s competition.  At the School Art Program Competition, every participant is a winner in their own right.  After all, as sociologist Charles Horton Cooley emphasizes, “An artist cannot fail.  It is a success to be one.”

Related: Best Art Museums In Houston

Rainne Mendoza Celespara is a freelance writer living in Houston. Her work can be found at


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