Showcasing Young Talent

by • February 3, 2014 • 2014, Big Kids, Community, February 2014, People & Profiles, Special Events, Teens and Pre-Teens

For young students, it doesn’t take much more than the promise of an award to elicit excitement about a school project – especially an art project. For many students across Orange County, the promise of a countywide competition is enough to send them into an artistic tizzy. Orange County’s grandest competition doesn’t only elicit excitement; it elicits hundreds of entries into the various showcases the county has to offer (and there are many), each presenting the chance to proudly display the next Pollack, the next Monet.

The Imagination Celebration, a collaboration between Arts Orange County and the Orange County Department of Education, is an annual celebration of art by children and teenagers from public, private and home schools alike. Students between kindergarten and twelfth grade are invited to submit drawings, paintings and sculpture, as well as traditional and digital photography. In the past it was not uncommon for over 10,000 submissions to reach the Garden Grove Unified School District offices, where most of the judging takes place. As financial support for the arts in schools has dwindled, so have the submissions; this year perhaps 5,000 submissions are expected. Still, it takes an enormous group of volunteers to sift through all the entries and support the jurors as they make their selections for the various exhibitions.

From GGUSD the best examples of our county’s student art are sent out for exhibition. Between thirty to fifty independently produced arts events take place all across the county in locations as varied as the art itself. From university campuses to movie theatres to city parks, art will be on display en force come spring. Most Imagination Celebration-related exhibitions and events take place in April and May, though one of the most prestigious (the Junior Art Exhibit at the Laguna Beach Festival of Arts) runs throughout the summer.

Of course, the Imagination Celebration is not the only avenue by which artwork by local young people is juried for exhibition throughout each year in Orange County, but it is by far the largest. It is a massive undertaking that results in the display of over 3,000 pieces of art throughout Orange County. “Art” plus “massive undertaking” doesn’t seem like a formula legislators would love in today’s budgetary climate.

“There are a lot of people busting their buttons to make sure the Imagination Celebration doesn’t go away,” says Diane Acosta, the Fine Arts Program Facilitator at GGUSD and the administrative “face” of the Imagination Celebration, whose passion for the program has had to carry her through the last several years far more than her budget or staff resources. “If it were not for the Imagination Celebration, the art might go on display at the children’s schools, but it might just go under the bed or on the fridge. I facilitate this program so that the kids can have the opportunity to show the community what they can do.”

Many educators take the importance of art beyond feelings and assert that the practice of art is indispensable; that it touches every facet of our community’s future. If you want to inspire your children – and yourself – this year, go see the indispensable work of some of our county’s most promising young artists. Find out more about the Imagination Celebration at


7 Young Artist Exhibitions to See in 2014 (by date)


Color It Orange Invitational

March 16 – 23 // Laguna College of Art and Design // 2222 Laguna Canyon Road, LB

Color It Orange is sponsored by Laguna College of Art and Design, which invites high school art teachers to submit select student work to this annual show. Approximately 500 works of art – paintings, drawings and sculpture – are displayed each year. Color It Orange has been running for 39 years. As program coordinator Nancy Lawrence says of the young artists, “When you display their art, they are likely to do it again. Recognition is a wonderful thing.” Find out about Color It Orange here.


1,000 Pieces of Art

April 12 – May 25 // South Coast Plaza (Crate & Barrel Wing) // 3333 Bear Street, Costa Mesa

100 pieces of art from each grade level are selected from thousands of submissions from all around Orange County through the Imagination Celebration and displayed for the public’s enjoyment.


Photography, Multi-Media Art Show

April 18 – May 4 // Huntington Beach Fine Arts Center // 538 Main Street, Huntington Beach

Traditional and digital photography, video and multi-media submissions are juried through the Imagination Celebration and are exhibited in a gallery-style setting for the public to view.


Three Dimensional Art Show

May 2– May 24 // Irvine Fine Arts Center // 14321 Yale Avenue, Irvine

The Three Dimensional Art Show includes sculpture, jewelry, bas-relief, masks, and ceramics. Pieces are submitted through the Imagination Celebration jury process and displayed professionally for presentation to the public.


VSA California of Orange County

May 3rd, 11am–4pm // Westfield MainPlace // 2800 N Main St, Santa Ana

VSA (Very Special Artist) California makes the arts accessible to people of all abilities through providing arts, education, and cultural opportunities by, with, and for people with disabilities. The VSA California of Orange County exhibition celebrates the artistic accomplishments of Orange County students with disabilities in grades K-12.


Laguna Beach Festival of Arts Jr Art Exhibit

July 6 – August 30 // Laguna Beach Festival of Arts // 650 Laguna Canyon Road, Laguna Beach

The Junior Art Exhibit at the Laguna Beach Festival of Arts summer art show is an exhibition within an exhibition, started in 1947 after the Festival’s “grown up” art show had already been running for 15 years. Since its inception the Junior Art Exhibit has been a favorite highlight of the Festival of Arts, and it represents a significant component of the Imagination Celebration. The Festival of Arts judges (many of whom are working artists themselves) get first dibs on the art submitted from throughout the county through the Imagination Celebration, which makes the Junior Art Exhibit arguably the finest young artist exhibition in the county. Find out more here.


OC Fair Young Adult Fine Arts, Photography & Film Competitions

July 11 – August 10 // OC Fairgrounds // 88 Fair Drive, Costa Mesa

Each year approximately 500 entries are made to the Young Adult Fine Arts Competition at the OC Fair, where students ages 13 to 18 can compete to have their work displayed for over one million fairgoers to see. Categories include drawing, painting, digital art, photography and film. Find out more here.

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