The lawyers and judges of the United States District Court for the Middle District of Florida, Fort Myers Division ("Court" or "Division")—through the Middle District Bench Bar Fund—and the Southwest Florida Federal Court Bar Association ("Federal Bar").
Every American courthouse is a vital public building—it is where the People seek durable justice. Since these buildings belong to local citizens, courthouses should (if practicable) reflect the people they serve. To meet this goal, the Division and Federal Bar believe talented students are well-suited to create an ongoing art exhibit for the Fort Myers' United States Courthouse and Federal Building ("Courthouse"). As the Courthouse halls fill with art over the years, the exhibit will show the evolving student expressions of law-and justice-related themes. What's more, the Contest offers this community's most precious resources a chance to say how one of its most important buildings should look.
The Contest is open to all sixth- to twelfth-grade students currently enrolled (at the beginning of the 2023-24 school year) at any school within the borders of the School Districts of Collier, Charlotte, DeSoto, Glades, Hendry, and Lee Counties. Children, grandchildren, stepchildren, and members of the household of a federal judge, a federal court employee, or a member of the Federal Bar are excluded.
October 27, 2023, by 3:00 p.m. (local time).
To qualify for the Contest,
- Submissions must respond to the prompt.
- Submissions must be on paper, canvas, or a similar surface no smaller than 24 in. x 30 in. (or 720 in2). Given the size of the Courthouse walls, larger works are encouraged. Submissions need not be framed. Three-dimensional pieces are permitted only if they are submitted in a thin shadowbox or on paper, canvas, or a similar surface that would allow them to be easily hung on a wall.
- Submissions must be accompanied by fully completed entry and release form or—if the student submitted the form online—include a way to clearly identify the student's name. The entry and release form can be found on the Court's website at https://www.flmd.uscourts.gov/student-contests.
- Submissions may use any artistic medium (including—but not limited to—acrylic, oil, watercolor, charcoal, chalk, pencil, crayon, marker, ink, tempura, collage, mixed media, wood, metal, cloth, fabric, or photography).
- Submissions must not use or depict substances or fluids that are illegal or hazardous. The judges reserve the right to refuse or disqualify any submission that violate this rule.
Create a work of art depicting one or more scenes of Southwest Florida.
Subjects to consider include cityscapes, landscapes, landmarks, and people from the present or past. For instance, submissions could depict Fifth Avenue in Naples, First Street in Fort Myers, or the like. Conversely, one might portray the farms, ranches, beaches, rivers, islands, swamps, forests, wildlife, or other natural beauties found throughout the Division. What's more, think about showing noteworthy places such as the Ford and Edison Estates and Calusa Shell Mounds. Or perhaps works would represent the wonderful and resilient people who call this area home. Also consider important historical moments in Southwest Florida like the devastation of Hurricane Ian or founding of Fort Myers.
The suggestions above are not exhaustive. This Division is fortunate to have an incredibly diverse selection of scenes to depict. So think about what you would like to show others about your home. Whatever scene you choose to explore, do your best to capture what makes Southwest Florida so unique and special.
Responding to Prompt
As noted, submissions must respond to the prompt. It is not the intent to censure any artwork. But submissions must be appropriate for display in the Courthouse, where parties regularly file a variety of sensitive cases. So qualifying submissions must remain within the theme of the prompt. And the Division retains full authority to only display submissions in its aesthetic discretion. For that reason, the Division will not display overtly partisan, sensationalistic, gruesome, or obscene submissions.
How to Submit
Only one submission is allowed per student. All submissions must be made by the deadline above.
Students, parents, teachers, or school administrators are encouraged to coordinate submissions with their school and school district.
Alternatively, if participants prefer to make submissions directly, they must do so in person at the following address:
Grounds for Disqualification
Judges may disqualify submissions that
- do not comply with these Contest Rules;
- are not the submitting student's original work;
- provide fake entry information; or
- plagiarize another artwork.
All decisions of disqualification are final and in the judges' discretion.
The Federal Bar also hosts a Constitution and Citienship Day event on September 15, 2023, at the Federal Courthouse in Fort Myers. It is separate from the Contest and all are welcome to attend. The Federal Bar may—in its discretion—display qualifying Contest submissions that have already been received at this Constitution and Citizenship Day event. If the Federal Bar determines a submission is not in line with the purpose of the Constitution Day event (celebrating the signing of the United States Constitution and holding a Naturalization Ceremony), it will not be required to display that submission. It will not impact the Contest at all, but students, parents, teachers, family, friends, and anyone else are encouraged to attend.
After the contest submission due date, the judges will take all qualifying submissions under advisement, review them, and decide the winners. All federal judges who sit in this Division (and are available to do so) will judge the submissions. Their decisions will be final.
The judges will evaluate qualifying submissions using these criteria:
- Did the submission respond to the prompt? (15%)
- Was the submission original? (20%)
- Did the submission have strong artistic design? (50%)
- Was the submission appealing, inspiring, moving, or provoking? (15%)
Winners will be decided in two stages.
First, all qualifying submissions will be split by grade level. Judges will determine one winner for each grade level with a qualifying submission. Each grade-level winner will receive $50.
Second, judges will consider all qualifying submissions together—regardless of grade level. The judges will then select overall first-, second-, and third-place submissions. Of those qualifying submissions, the first-place winner will receive $500; the second-place winner will receive $300; and the third-place winner will receive $150.
If any overall first-, second-, or third-place winners also won their respective grade-level prize, the judges may—in their discretion—distribute that $50 grade-level prize to the student with the judges' second choice in that grade. This rule is intended to encourage sportsmanship, expand participation, and increase recognition of other submissions. The judges' decisions will be final.
Winners will be announced and recognized at a special ceremony at the Federal Courthouse in Fort Myers in November 2023. All participants will be invited to this ceremony and an ice cream party reception. What's more, all participants will be invited to attend an in-person proceeding before a federal judge at a mutually agreeable weekday and time.
License to Use and Display Submissions, Names, and Photographs
Participants will be required to submit a release allowing the Court to display their qualifying submissions at the Courthouse. All submissions become the Court's property and may be used, reproduced, published, and displayed in publications and materials promoting the judicial branch. Entries will not be returned. At any time, the Division may exercise its discretion to return any submission to a student (by sending it the student's school). And the Division retains full discretion to decide which qualifying submissions to keep for display, along with how they will be displayed in the Courthouse. The Division may—for no more than subjective aesthetic reasons—decide not to display a qualifying submission. By accepting a qualifying submission, the Division does not promise it will display the work for any length of time. Nor does the decision to display a qualifying submission indicate it will remain displayed for any length of time.
Participants will be required to submit a release allowing the Court to publish their submissions in print publications and on Court's public website. In addition, winners will be asked to authorize use of photographs of themselves in contest-related promotional materials, which may include photographs taken at events.