SALT LAKE CITY — A gallery of art from the first-ever International Art Competition for Youth at the LDS Church History Museum will open to the public on Friday, Nov. 16, and remain open until June 2013.
The exhibit will display 82 of the top pieces of art from youths all over the world who participated in the museum's inaugural youth competition, including, of course, the winning entries.
According to Rita Wright, an employee at the Church History Museum, the project, which included the use of youth judges, has given young people across the globe the chance to make art that expresses how they feel about The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
"I think it's a been nice break for them to stop and think about how they can share their testimony through a creative visual form," Wright said.
The idea for an international youth art competition came to the Church History Museum's attention more than two years ago. Angela Ames West, the exhibit team coordinator, immediately went to work. The competition ultimately opened Jan. 2, 2012, and closed June 1. Youths were asked to depict the 2012 Mutual theme, "Arise and Shine Forth" (Doctrine and Covenants 115: 4-6).
Providing a way for youths to connect art with gospel principles was the main purpose of the competition.
"Our goal was to engage the youth of the church into creating art that is spiritual." West said. "They learn to take their talents and the gifts that they've been given and use them for a religous, spiritual purpose. We have a lot of adults that do that, but not a lot of teenagers that start doing it when they are young."
In the five-month submission period, more than 400 entries were received from 28 different countries around the world. Not knowing what they would receive, West said they were worried all the submissions would be similar.
But Wright expressed excitement for the variety of works submitted.
"We knew there would be some generals, and it's the same with the adults," Wright said. "But the youth seemed to show more of their dealings with adversity and dealings with the world, and that's exactly what we kind of hoped.
"In fact, we were at one point really trying to know how to put that out there and we didn't. They just came out with how they have had to stand up for their faith and their membership. So that was a pleasant thing that we weren't sure how it would play out."
Submissions were all sent in as digital copies to be judged in the first round. Each artist whose work was selected to move on was then asked to send the physical piece of work. Of those, 82 pieces were selected to be a part of the gallery at the Church History Museum.
In order to involve other youths in this process, West and Allison Mays put together a group of teenage interns to form the first Youth Humanities Council. Applications were reviewed and the top six applicants were accepted.
"Having the youth participate in this exhibit was really important," Mays said. "It really showed us what the youth of today are interested in, what appeals to them, what they relate to and have had experiences with that would probably help other youth have a deeper connection to the works."
The interns had several duties, including judging the final round. Allowing youths to judge other youth submissions simply expanded the overall experience.
"With each piece and its description I was astonished by the strength and testimony of people my age," said Nicole Tucker, one of the youth interns. "Choosing which ones to allow in was hard. ... It was also inspiring to read the story behind each piece. Through this experience I have learned that there are so many different ways to 'arise and shine forth.' This year's Mutual theme has no limits when it comes to applying to individual's lives."
Toni Oka, another youth intern, especially enjoyed the opportunity to view artwork for youths her age from across the world.
"I was shocked and impressed by the unique and incredible talents the youth all over the world have to offer," Oka said. "Young artists can produce works that are so extravagant and breathtaking. I hope when people come to see the exhibit, they feel the voice behind every work."
Although another youth contest hasn't been planned yet, both West and Wright expressed their hopes to see another one in the future.
"The hope would be that we see how this goes and get to do something similar again," Wright said. "It is something we definitely hope will build."
If you go
What: International Art Competition for Youth exhibit, opening Nov. 16
Where: Church History Museum, 45 N. West Temple, Salt Lake City
Hours: Monday-Friday 9 a.m.-9 p.m.; Saturday and Sunday, 10 a.m.-5 p.m.
Sarah Sanders Petersen is an intern for Deseret News where she writes for Mormon Times and other feature articles. She is a Communications major and editing minor.