Snite Museum of Art Essay Competition Guidelines

Each academic year, the Snite Museum of Art, with support from the University Writing Program, celebrates the best essays by first-year students on a topic related to a work of art in the museum’s collection. First, second, and third place winners will receive $150, $125, and $100 cash awards, respectively, and have their essays published in Fresh Writing, Volume 23.    

Writing Guidelines:

  • All submissions must be based in some way on a work of art in the collection of the Snite Museum of Art or on view in a temporary exhibition. The writing should reflect that students have spent significant time in the presence of and engaging with the original work of art. (Tip: Participate in Art180 as a precursor to writing your essay. Investing time with your chosen work will immerse you in it, substantiate your ideas, and strengthen your submission.)
  • The form the writing takes is the student’s choice as long as it includes an original argument. Possibilities include, but are not limited to:
    • Critical considerations
    • Personal reflections
    • Contextual analyses
    • Aesthetic responses
    • Scientific explorations
  • Essays will be judged on:
    • Interpretation and understanding of the work of art. Submissions should offer a coherent interpretation of the work of art based on observation and analysis. This interpretation need not be art historical, but aspects or details of the work of art should be used to support key written ideas.
    • Choice of style and form. The form the submission takes (which is not limited to those listed above) should reinforce the author’s interpretation.
    • Balance of creative risk-taking and intellectual humility. Works of art offer many meanings; explore the meaning you construct without asserting it as a singular truth.    
    • Overall structure, cohesion, and syntax.  The discussion of the work of art should be seamlessly integrated into the writing, keeping the work of art as the focus. Submissions must be edited according to the formatting guidelines below.

Formatting Guidelines:

  • Submissions must not exceed 3,000 words.
  • Submissions must be typed and double-spaced with numbered pages.
  • Accurate citations and credits must be included, if applicable. Please be consistent with a common style such as MLA, Chicago Style, or APA.

To Submit:

All First Year students are encouraged to submit pieces of writing, regardless of whether their class visited the Snite as part of their course. Writing done for a course grade is welcome for submission. Faculty are also welcome to submit outstanding written work on behalf of their students. Submissions may be uploaded at any point in the academic year before Friday, March 31, 2023. Students who have written a piece for a fall semester class are encouraged to submit their entries at the end of the fall semester.

Submit your essay here. 

General questions about the process and accessibility questions should be directed to Bridget Hoyt, Curator of Education for Academic Programs, Snite Museum of Art, at

Read past winning essays in Fresh Writing