Entering Arts & Sciences Competitions

Master Philip White, OL, OP                                                          (Craig Shupeé)

East Kingdom A&S Minister                                                           philipwhite@hotmail.com

Goal: Understanding, preparing for, and participating in different Arts and Sciences competitions, fairs or displays. Have fun. Teach. Learn.


  • Entrants of all levels of experience.

The Basics: Get in the right headspace

  • Be kind.
    • There is always a gracious way to handle a situation. For yourself, for other entrants, for judges, and for other volunteers.
  • Be thankful.
    • Thank the volunteers (judges and organizers) for their time.
  • Be wise.
    • If a situation starts to impact your mental or physical health then allow yourself to stop.
    • There is no reason to make yourself ill or to cause yourself heartache.
  • Be thoughtful.
    • Pause. Take a breath and think about your circumstances.
    • Ask questions before taking action.
    • Share feedback with the Minister of Arts and Sciences Office. It is always appreciated.

To Start: Perform a self-assessment

  • What first attracted you to historical arts and sciences? Has that changed?
  • Have you participated in an A&S competition before?
    • What made it a good experience?
    • What could have made it better?
  • Decide what you want out of the activity.
    • To win (get a great score)?
    • To teach and share new research?
    • To learn from your peers and receive feedback?
    • To set time frames and goals to motivate you to complete your project?
    • To challenge yourself?
    • To achieve recognition or word fame?
  • Understand the competition and where you are. Local competitions may be less rigorous than a bigger regional event; regional competitions may be less rigorous than a Kingdom event.
  • Understand when you are jumping into “the deep end”, and be prepared for more intense judging.
  • Know Thyself. If you are not willing to accept any criticism or feedback of your work, then perhaps entering a competition is not for you.

Choose an Activity: Don’t let the activity choose you

  • Are there event limitations for the activity?
    • Are there time or location constraints?
    • Is the activity a good place to meet your goals?
  • What kind of activity is it?

Preparing for the activity:

  • Be sure to look at the requirements of the competition or display, so you know you are adequately prepared.
    • Are there published rules for the activity? Timeframes? Deadlines?
    • Is there a rubric or are there judging guidelines?
    • Do you need to pre-register?
  • Enter an item that is historically based or inspired. Some of the most popular pieces of “SCA-ness” may not actually show up in the historical record, and that can make your road hard.
  • Decide what to enter. You may want to include anything from “progress pieces” to “master works”.
  • Review your entry. Can you answer these questions?
    • What makes you proud about the entry?
    • What would you do differently?
    • How is it historically based? What is it lacking?
    • Did you have any surprises? What would surprise another person?
    • How much time and effort did it take?
    • Have you made something like this before?
  • Review your documentation:
    • Will it be verbal and/or printed?
    • Consider different levels of detail. A short description, a one-page document, a full in-depth description.
  • Seek feedback:
    • Have your work evaluated first by a knowledgeable friend.
    • Then have your work looked at by a friend who knows nothing about the topic.
    • Observe the differences in reactions and questions asked.
  • Prepare your physical display space will look like:
    • Practice setting up your display. Your display should enhance your entry, not over power it.
    • It helps to set up your work on different levels and to use stands rather than laying things flat on a table.
    • Bring table coverings.
    • Clean your entry. Bring labels. Set out materials for examples.
    • Sometime you can leave food out to catch attention.
    • Avoid setting up so much stuff that it begins to look like a garage sale. Think museum display instead.

During the activity:

  • Whenever possible, stand by your work, physically. You are your best advocate, and only you can communicate what you know, and the judges may ask.
  • Remember that the judges and the coordinator are volunteers. The judges may even have be “volun-told” or “volun-asked”, and are giving up a big part of their day.
  • You may be presenting a piece in a specialized area, and the judge may not be familiar with that area. Use this as an opportunity to teach: start with your historical piece, and show how you extrapolated from there. Do not “condescend”.

After the competition:

  • Thank your judges at the event. Thank your judges in writing after the event. Thank your judges.
  • Do consider the comments you are given. Can you incorporate these suggestions into your next step?
  • There is nothing wrong with a lower score. If it is your first time entering, or your first time entering a new project or art form, then a “middle” ranking is possibly an appropriate ranking. 
  • Recognize that, at the end of the day, you may be unhappy with the scores or suggestions. Give it a day, revisit, and then carefully reconsider. If it was about the judge as a person or if it was about the entry. It may have been a poor judging moment. Either way look for any opportunity possible to learn and try not to take it personally.

To Finish: Perform a self-assessment

  • Think about what your goals were and whether or not you were able to achieve them.
  • Decide what you can do better next time.
  • Think about what you did not like about the competition and what you can do to avoid that situation or change it.
  • Did you learn anything?
  • Did you teach anyone anything?

Thanks and acknowledgements to Mistress Amy Webbe for earlier work on this document.

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