WINDSOR TERRACE — For more than 13 consecutive years, a diocesan tradition occurs every Christmas and Easter: The Tablet newspaper partners with the Archbishop John Hughes Knights of Columbus Council and hundreds of students throughout Brooklyn and Queens to complete the annual art contest. On average, more than 500 pieces of colorful, sometimes glittery, intricate handmade artwork filters into the hands of the staff at the newspaper’s Windsor Terrace office. But for the first time in the contest’s history – it’s going digital.
“The Tablet has held a Christmas art contest for many years and we didn’t want this year to be any different despite the risks associated with COVID-19,” said Dustin Etheridge, DeSales Media’s manager of digital content production, the department overseeing the new transition. “So the department put our heads together and came up with an online art contest where students can submit their artwork in the form of a photo to our website.”
Twice a year, young artists at Catholic academies, parishes, and high schools are asked to create their own interpretation of the themes “Keep Christ in Christmas” and “Christ is Risen” in order to focus on the true message of the season. Joe Sbarra, the deputy grand knight at the Archbishop John Hughes Council in Dyker Heights, says the Knights understood that in order to keep the students and families involved in this faith-based tradition, they had to adapt to the new norms.
“We want to keep the art contest going,” Sbarra said. “We want to keep children and their families involved and motivated and I think it would’ve been a great disappointment not to have it because of the pandemic. There are a lot more benefits to going digital than negatives.”
The new digital format means that everything from the submission, to the judging, and the award ceremony, will strictly be online. This year, students and parents were asked to still create their masterpieces, but instead of mailing their artwork, they would take a picture and upload it to The Tablet’s website. The 11 winners (more if there is a tie) will be selected, notified, and acknowledged at the online award ceremony, which will be broadcasted live on The Tablet’s Facebook page.
Digital art pieces started being submitted before the Christmas break.
“We’ve seen those submissions coming into the website,” said Etheridge, “and we want more of them. One of the best parts of this contest is meeting as a group with other staff members and seeing the creativity of the children of the diocese.”
The Archbishop John Hughes Council will mail winners their certificates and monetary award. The artwork will also be published in the newspaper, which is an enticing reward to the high school students who are interested in pursuing art in college.
The new digital process did raise questions, according to Lucia Morales, from the diocese’s Secretariat of Evangelization & Catechesis office. Morales helped oversee various youth ministries throughout the diocese as part of the Catholic Youth Ministry Initiative. She shared the art contest information and said some youth ministers needed clarification on the submission part. Morales was guided to the online submission form for the complete contest rules and art upload form.
Sbarra says that while the contest has been reinvented for the time being, his hope is that the in-person award ceremonies will once again take place when it is safe.
“It will never replace having that one-on-one human contact because that’s how we are as human beings,” he said. “We need to see people in person, we need to shake their hands, give them a hug, and interact with them in that way, that’s how we are as people.”
Editor’s note: The Tablet’s 2020 Keep Christ in Christmas contest’s deadline is Wednesday, Jan. 13 at 5 p.m. For contest information, including cash prizes, and to submit your artwork, visit thetablet.org/2020artcontest