Conquering the Arts and Sciences Competition

1.  Background:  The Three Elements of a Competition are Documentation (D), Execution (E) and Presentation (P).  I call it “The DEP Factor.” We will cover these elements today, as well as another very important element, which is follow-up and making your work known to others.

2.  Documentation:  I cannot stress enough the value of research and documentation.  There are many websites explaining various methods on how to document an entry.  Documentation does not need to be rocket science, but it needs to be done neatly and clearly.  It also has to be consistent with your entry.  Here are some pointers: 

  • Always conduct your research before making your artifact.
  • Do not try to justify your artifact after you’re done. 
  • Original research will be better received than only Internet sources or photocopied pages
  • Proofread your paper.  If possible, have a friend proofread it as well.
  • Explain where your artifact is coming from and what the differences are between it and the period one
  • Explain how you made it
  • Be clear and concise
  • Invest in a binder and some sheet protectors

3.  Execution:  A competitive A&S entry does not impress people with documentation alone.  Even if you have done the most thorough research and put together the most impressive paper, you still need to create your artifact, sing your song, etc.  Here are some pointers to help improve the quality of your entry:

  •  Whenever possible, use period materials
  • If a period material is unavailable or too expensive, use the material that most resembles the original and explain why you are using it
  • Whenever possible, use period construction techniques
  • Pay attention to detail.  For instance, a red chemise may look very nice with your dress but, before you even consider it, find out if there are any indications that red chemises were used in that time-period and region
  • Pay attention to the quality of your workmanship.  Sloppy or hurried work can ruin an otherwise impressive entry.  There will always be other competitions.  Do not rush to complete an entry if it will result in shoddy work
  • Practice, practice, practice…  Make several mock-ups before committing to the real thing.

4.  Presentation:  Remember, it is the small details that will make your work get noticed.  Here are some pointers:  

  • Always carry a piece of cloth to cover the space where your artifact will be placed
  • Place cards and a pen for comments
  • Make sure that your documentation is neat – no coffee stains or anything like that
  • Printed documentation looks better than handwritten
  • Invest in a nice binder and sheet protectors (see item 2 above)
  • Include pictures of the artifact that inspired yours.  Color pictures if possible.
  • Try placing your documentation or at least a picture of the period artifact on a book holder to make it more easily visible

5.         Suggested Presentation Kit 

  • Your entry (duh!)
  • Tablecloth or piece of fabric
  • Book holder (you can pick one up cheap at craft stores)
  • Basket or box to put your entry on
  • Documentation
  • Cards and a pen for people to leave comments
  • Any other small props that won’t detract from the focus of your presentation.   

6.         Aftermath 

  • If you receive comments, read them carefully and see if there is any information that is useful for future reference
  • If you receive comments that you do not like or do not agree with, contact the judge or the person who left you the comment.  He or she may know something you don’t know and there is only one way to find out. 
  • Even if you receive no comments, make an effort to contact the judges if possible
  • If you don’t know who the judges were, contact the person who was in charge of the competition.  They should have that information.
  • Always be polite when contacting your judges.
  • Should you get a rude judge, take the issue to an A&S Officer for resolution or to the Principal of the Order of the Pearl (if you are in Atlantia) or the Laurel if he or she belongs to any of those Orders.
  • Constructive criticism does not constitute rudeness.  Comments like “Don’t quit your day job” do.

 7.         Telling the World About Your Work

  • Take plenty of pictures of your entry
  • If you don’t have a camera, get a friend to take the pictures.  You can also purchase a disposable camera.  They even sell digital disposables nowadays.
  • The Internet is your friend.  Upload the pictures to your webpage if you have one
  • If you don’t have a webpage, get an account with any of the free online photo albums such as Flickr, Community Webshots, Smugmug, Picasa, etc.  These sites require no special web skills such as knowledge of HTML,etc
  • You can also get an account with any of the online journals and start a diary of your project. Live Journal, Blogger and WordPress come to mind.  They are free and you can post your documentation as well. They also allow you to upload pictures without much fuss.
  • Facebook is another option to share your work.  However, you must remember that not everyone has access to your FB pictures.  If you post them there, make sure that they are not closed to your friends only so the rest of the world can admire them.

 Finally, remember to have fun.  Arts and Sciences competitions and displays are about teaching and learning, but ultimately it is all about the fun.

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