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. 

2024 Winners

The Western Governors’ Foundation is excited to showcase the state and overall winners for the 2024 Celebrate the West regional art competition.

The annual competition, now in its ninth year, challenges high school students to create original works inspired by their state. Students are encouraged to think about what the West means to them, what it means to call the West home, what they learned about its complex past, and what they imagine its future may look like.

Earlier this spring, the Foundation's panel of art experts selected one finalist from each state and territory in WGA's footprint. State winners then competed for overall 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place, as well as the People's Choice Award.  

The winning pieces will be displayed at the 2024 Annual Meeting of the Western Governors' Association in June. In the meantime, you can view their incredible artwork in the slideshow at the bottom of the page. 

Overall Winners 

1st place overall: Grandma's Table, by Elsa Axtman of Davies High School in North Dakota  

"My painting gives a glimpse into so many North Dakotans' heritage with a common bond of meals shared with family, friends, and neighbors. I painted a picture of a supper at Grandma's with food my family enjoys, special to ND. I began with a doily and a quilt centerpiece because my grandma always has these pieces on her table. I painted Knoephla soup to represent my German ancestry. Next, I painted beets and pickles because my grandmas always had homemade pickled veggies to eat. I thought of the pride so many people from North Dakota have in their gardens, so I included a salad made from their fresh pickings. I also added lefse to commemorate my Swedish heritage, showing a staple to every special meal. Other than food, I added a recipe, mail, and newspaper from my dad's hometown because my grandma's table is always full of today's happenings."

2nd place overall: The Spirit of the Earth by Kenneth Choi of the Bellevue International School in Washington. 

"This piece contains a drawing of a friend’s younger sibling. Both her and her family were Washington Native Americans by descent. I would spend countless hours listening to their folktales and life experiences as Native Americans. The family would tell me about the historical difficulties that Natives in Washington faced. However, they would always remind me that their past wouldn’t define their future. My friend’s parents hoped that both him and his younger sister would have the tenacity to carry their culture with pride while living the best life possible from the sacrifices that their ancestors had made. Thus, The Spirit of the Earth aims to show people that the Natives who were on this land before us are right to be proud of who they are and who they will be as true Americans."  

3rd place overall: Community by Athena Maldonado of the Orange County School of the Arts in California. 

"My piece depicts my connection with both my Southern California and Taiwanese community. Living in California my entire life, I especially love its cosmopolitan nature and being able to connect with my mother’s culture despite being seas apart from Taiwan. California is all encompassing; I can still eat delicious Asian foods, celebrate traditional holidays, and go to all the incredible shows and night markets that my mom did growing up. I’ve always felt that California was the perfect home to explore both my parents’ cultures."   

People's Choice Award: Red-Tailed Hawk by Sienna Meuser of the Idaho Fine Arts Academy in Idaho. 

"This drawing is of an American Red Tailed Hawk, most famously used for American Falconry, which is the art of hunting wild game with a bird of prey. This sport is an extremely important part of western culture and is sometimes overlooked. I myself am a licensed falconer and take a lot of inspiration from the birds in my everyday life. There is a lot to be learned from the wildlife around us and connects us with our culture more than we know. Birds of prey are extremely important for our ecosystems and natural habitats, and the West would not be what it is today without them."   

Judging Panel 

Christine Ogsbury: Christine Ogsbury founded Celebrate the West in 2015 with her husband, former Executive Director of WGA and current President of the Western Governors’ Foundation, Jim Ogsbury. She was recently highlighted in a special podcast episode of Out West, the official podcast of the Western Governors’ Association, where she shares her inspiration behind starting Celebrate the West, and shares some of her favorite memories from the program. Click here to listen. Christine is a graduate of Arizona State University, and has a background as a corporate paralegal. SHe is currently enjoying retired life in Maui.  

Sharon Rouse: Sharon Rouse is a long-time docent at the Denver Art Museum and a leader on the board of Colorado Art Awards, a part of Scholastic Art and Writing national program.  Throughout her Visual Art education career in public and private schools, she established working programs for students  that inspired and cultivated their talents and  appreciation of the arts.  Upon retirement, she continued to teach  the Visual Arts as an Art Education Student Supervisor for Metro State University. 


Mark Salinas: Mark Salinas is the Public Art Program Manager for the City of Berkeley, California and is responsible for the municipal development and implementation of public art policies, procedures, and programming. A strong believer in transparent and inclusive practices, he created The First Lady Presents in 2021, an online arts education initiative promoting the visibility of artists from non-dominant communities in Nevada. Mark is also a recipient of the 2019 Nevada Humanities Rising Star Award and the 2022 Nevada Governor’s Point of Light Award.

Toby Zikmund: Toby Zikmund was selected to participate in the prestigious Western Governors’ Leadership Institute as a North Dakota State Delegate in 2023. Apart from being recognized by our Governors as a rising young leader, Toby has his Bachelor of Fine Arts with an emphasis on painting and is an artist himself. He is currently living in France as part of the Teaching Assistant Program in France (TAPIF). 

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

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