An idea for a child’s homework assignment has become a nationwide art competition teaching aquatic conservation through the arts.  Back in 1997 a bright fifth-grader from Minnesota named Kate DiLeo and her father Sal had a big idea, a state-fish art idea.

While doing a research project on Minnesota’s State-Fish, they discovered very little information existed on all the different State-Fish in the USA. They decided a contest should be created that educated kids, teachers, and parents on aquatics resources, conservation, and each state’s official State-Fish.

DiLeo sought out the advice of Bud Grant, Minnesota Viking Coach & NFL “Hall of Famer,” and they came to Wildlife Forever with their vision.  The Wildlife Forever State-Fish Art Contest was born … and the rest is conservation history!  Visit StateFishArt.org to learn all about the Contest and fun prizes!

The first contest was held in1999.  Several hundred pieces of fish art were received from 40 states.  Each was accompanied by an essay about the artist’s state-fish.

Today thousands of children participate each year  from all fifty states, Canada and countries around the world. The contest has been broadened to include all students in grades K – 12, several states host their state-level competition, the written essay is also judged and honored with the “Fish Make You Smarter Award” and recently an Invasive Species Category was added to the competition.

“Our goal is to continue to grow, involve more kids  and reach out to more and more educators all across the country.  We believe conservation education is the key that will ultimately determine the very future of our country’s fish and wildlife heritage.” remarks Karen R. Hollingsworth, Manager of State-Fish Art.  “We have an exciting 15th Anniversatry in the works and look forward to a banner year!”

Each year’s winners are honored at the State-Fish Art EXPO.  The first ten big events were held at the Mall of America in Bloomington, Minnesota.  In 2010 the EXPO became a traveling event held first in Texas then Arkansas.  Next summer the Go Fish Education Center in Perry, Georgia will host the 2013 EXPO on July 12 and 13.

“Throughout the many years  of the State-Fish Art Contest we have come to know that the measure of success is more than in the number of students involved and the conservation lessons learned.” said Douglas Grann, President & CEO of Wildlife Forever.  “We have seen lives enriched and lives changed as winning lifts a child’s confidence and self-worth.  Everyone who enters becomes a conservation steward and thus a winner.”

Image courtesy Wildlife Forever

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