Celebrate The West

Celebrate the West is a regional art competition hosted by the Western Governors' Association that challenges high school students to create works inspired by their state. See their artwork here. 

2023 Winners

Each year, a panel of art experts select one finalist from each state and territory in WGA's footprint to compete for overall 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place in the Celebrate the West high school art competition. 

State Winners will receive $200 and compete for First ($1,500), Second ($750), Third Place ($500) Awards at the regional level, and the People's Choice Award ($250). The artwork of the overall winners will be displayed at WGA's 2023 Annual Meeting in Boulder, Colorado.

This year's overall winners are Emily Cooper, from Highland High School in Utah, who received the overall 1st place award for her painting, Dancer. Yuxi You from Washington took home 2nd place overall and the People's Choice Award for her piece, Standing on the Prairie. Maggie Toeckes of Power High School in Montana won 3rd place overall for her piece, Dashing Through the Snow.

"When people look at this work I want them to see a person taking pride and joy in her culture and who she is as a Navajo Native American through dancing," Emily Cooper, said about her 1st Place piece, "Dancer."  "I want people to feel the energy and emotion of it in the movement and expression, and I want them to see that the different cultures and people of the West are something to celebrate and be proud of and it brings a lot of beauty and happiness into the world. My intent was to portray the dance and movement as best I can in a still image while retaining the feeling, and I hope that incorporating the embroidery enhances it and brings out the intricacy and uniqueness of it all."

“As a West resident, I've learned to appreciate the region's natural and cultural uniqueness," 2nd Place winner, Yuxi You, said about her piece, "Standing on the Prairie." "Its nature, ranging from the rugged Rocky Mountains to the vast and open grassland of the Westside Prairie, is one of the ways I define the West. In my painting, a girl stands in front of her cabin on a grassy plain, a sighting that exemplifies how people here live with nature. The West is also a place of diversity, from the indigenous peoples to the immigrants. The Asian girl in my painting, holding flowers in one hand and waving to someone far away in the other, reflects this diversity. Moreover, the West symbolizes freedom to me. The vast land and sky that stretch across my painting offer a sense of possibility that's hard to find elsewhere. The West is a special place where nature, diversity, and freedom come together in a sustainable way.”

"This oil painting shows the sun setting over a field near Helena, Montana at feeding time through the contrast of a stark warm and cool color palette," Maggie Toeckes, said about her 3rd Place piece, "Dashing Through the Snow." "It unites the present and the past as the rancher feeds his horses and cattle with his team of Belgian horses thereby using the “old-fashioned” method to accomplish the tasks at hand. While the road before them is covered in frozen snow, the team surges forward with eagerness, sweating as they make easy work of their duties. The power of the team of horses as they kick up snow that catches the sunlight before them is magnificent and there is a stark contrast between rays of sunshine and the blue shadows. The horses’ determination to power on to accomplish their work inspires me to persevere with the same effort to press forward in my own life’s challenges and blessings."

The Western Governors' Foundation also announced this year's recipient of the Chairman's Award for Outstanding High School Art Educator; Samantha Cole, from the Shepard School in Montana.


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