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Sonic Histories Art Contest

Smoky Mountains


Call for original artworks: Sounding WCU

Artists are playing an increasingly important role in illuminating long and complex histories of race, class, (dis)ability, gender, and environmental politics. At a time when Western Carolina University (WCU) is refining and developing its commitment to diversity and inclusivity—while assessing its past in honest ways—Sounding WCU builds upon ongoing initiatives to position our campus as a creative community welcome to all. Students currently enrolled at WCU are invited to submit an original artwork that responds to the Sonic Histories project.*

*Sonic Histories is a research initiative exploring how students experience and perceive histories of race, class, and (dis)ability on a college campus located in the Southeastern U.S. During the 2019–2020 academic year, students from across campus were led on a series of listening walks to inquire into past and present soundscapes of WCU, particularly those associated with contested and erased spaces. Sites visited included the former African Methodist Episcopal Church, the former Cherokee Indian Mound, and the Catafount.

There are three prizes available for the final artwork submitted:
1st prize $400, 2nd prize $300, 3rd prize $200.

Seed money: Three seed-money awards (up to $200 per award) will be made available for supplies. To be considered, e-mail a statement outlining your project, media used, and a detailed budget (provide links to materials showing costs). The deadline to apply for seed money is October 15, 2020. The final artwork deadline is November 15, 2020. 

In addition to submitting an original creative work, contestants must provide a short biography (50 words) and also a support document (300 words) that connects their work to listening/observation and contested/erased sites on campus (see Sonic Histories portfolio). Students from historically oppressed and underrepresented groups are encouraged to submit. Submissions will be assessed by a jury of faculty and staff at WCU.**

There is no entry fee for this contest. Contestants need not have participated in the Sonic Histories research study to submit artwork. Submissions must engage one or more sites listed in the Sonic Histories portfolio. Review the Sonic Histories portfolio.

Submissions and inquiries should be sent to Tyler Kinnear at with "Sounding WCU – Submission" or "Sounding WCU – Inquiry" in the subject line.


  • Contestants must be currently enrolled at WCU.
  • Each contestant may submit only one artwork.
  • The artwork must be created for this contest (i.e., not pre-existing).
  • There is no restriction on the type of art submitted. However, as many types of art exist in physical form (e.g., a painting or a sculpture), the actual submission will be documentation of said artwork instead of the work itself. If the work is a performance (e.g., a dance sequence or a musical composition), the submission should be a recording of said work.
  • The artwork must engage one or more sites listed in the Sonic Histories portfolio.
  • The contestant is responsible for ensuring they have permission to capture/use audio- image-video. All copyright remains with the submitter.
  • Contestants must adhere to NC and WCU guidelines around COVID-19.
  • Contestants must follow local/state ordinances.
  • Accepted formats:
    • Audio/video submissions: Minimum length: 2 minutes. Maximum length: 10 minutes. Audio format: .wav file @ 16 bit/44.1Khz. .mp3 submissions will not be accepted. Video format: .mp4 file @ 1280 x 720 or higher.
    • Image submissions: .jpg, .png, or .tiff file @ 300 dpi minimum and 1800px minimum.

Submissions should include:

  • (Documentation of) the artwork
  • Short biography (50 words)
  • Support document (300 words)

Final artwork submission deadline: November 15, 2020

Rob Ferguson (Assistant Professor, History) Carolyn Grosch (Curator, WCU Fine Art Museum)
Jessica Hayden (Assistant Professor, Political Science and Public Affairs)
Tyler Kinnear (Instructor, David Orr Belcher College of Fine and Performing Arts) Kim Neidlinger (Instructor, College of Education and Allied Professions)
Dana Patterson (Director, Department of Intercultural Affairs)

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