Young artist drawing the world with chalk

The arts promote youth empowerment, build self-confidence and provide young people an outlet of self-expression. Read on to learn the 2021 National Arts Contest winners.

Encouraging the Next Generation of Artists

For many people, art is an avenue for self-expression. 

For young people across the globe, art has also been a constructive outlet to combat the mental health impacts of the past two years. 

Boys & Girls Clubs have long utilized art activities to support emotional development in Club youth – one of the strongest examples being the National Arts Contest. In partnership with Old Navy, the contest is part of an initiative to promote youth empowerment through creativity, building self-confidence and implementing social-emotional learning through art. 

In 2021, two young artists were selected from more than 2,500 entries to receive the “Best in Show” titles. 

“Just Me” Alanna G. 15 years old National Fine Arts Exhibition Best in Show ‘21 USAG Bavaria

Alanna G., 15, of the USAG Bavaria-Grafenwoehr Youth Center, took home the award in the National Fine Arts category with her pastel self-portrait entitled “Just Me.” Alanna’s work tells a story using colors to evoke the mix of emotions she felt at the time of its creation, which happened to be during quarantine. 

“Using color in my pieces helps me express my feelings to others and connect with the people viewing my art,” Alanna explained. 

“The Future Is Bright” Ayanna G. 17 years old ImageMakers Photography Contest Best in Show ‘21 Boys & Girls Clubs of Palm Beach County

A photo fittingly named “The Future Is Bright” earned Ayanna G., 17, of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Palm Beach County, the title in the ImageMakers Photography category. Her winning photograph features a fellow Club member looking ahead into a bright light while a dark background looms behind him, showcasing an optimistic outlook in tumultuous times. “I was shocked when I found out I won,” said Ayanna. 

But these two artists wouldn’t have cultivated a deep passion for the arts had it not been for those rallying behind them. Encouraged by her Club art teacher to challenge herself despite the possibility of making mistakes, Alanna’s winning portrait was her first attempt at drawing a complete face. 

Ayanna’s piece was secretly submitted by her Club’s photography teacher and biggest fan. “Art is something no one can take away from me or tell me I’m doing it wrong,” stated Ayanna. A perfect example of how the immense support these young artists receive helps them build resilience and further character development. 

“Having a community that keeps the arts alive and thriving will bring that forward into future generations – nourishing the hearts and mind and telling amazing stories for generations to come,” shared Kelly Blumberg, creative director at Old Navy and National Arts Contest judge. 

The National Arts Contest was made possible in part by a $1 million donation from Old Navy’s Project WE campaign. Through a collection of graphic tees designed by diverse artists, Project WE’s goal is to imagine a more inclusive world through art and honor cultural moments and movements. Old Navy’s generous gift will help Boys & Girls Clubs of America fund the mutual passion for youth arts programs in communities across the country.

Learn more about Boys & Girls Club arts programs help young people unleash creativity and build confidence.




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