Inspired by Art Writing Contest

Submission Deadline: Friday, October 29, 2010

Posted: September 17, 2010
Source: Farrell Howe
Job Title: Marketing & PR Coordinator
Department: Development
Phone: (269) 349-7775 ext. 3112

Dorthea Lange Migrant Mother

Dorothea Lange, American, 1895-1965, Migrant Mother, Nipomo, California, 1936, gelatin silver print. Collection of the Kalamazoo Institute of Arts, Gift of the Photo Guild. 1966/7.85

It is an image that sparks endless conversations and debate. In late winter/early spring of 1936, photographer Dorothea Lang was concluding a month long trip photographig migratory farm labor in California for what was then the Resettlement Administration. In 1960, she gave this account of her experience:

"I saw and approached the hungry and desperate mother, as if drawn by a magnet. I do not remember how I explained my presence or my camera to her, but I do remember she asked me no questions. I made five exposures, working closer and closer from the same direction. I did not ask her name or her history. She told me her age, that she was thirty-two. She said that they had been living on frozen vegetables from the surrounding fields, and birds that the children killed. She had just sold the tires from her car to buy food. There she sat in that lean-to tent with her children huddled around her, and seemed to know that my pictures might help her, and so she helped me. There was a sort of equality about it." (From: Popular Photography, Feb. 1960).

Migrant Mother is a powerful image that captured a moment of deep despair, suffering and internal struggle with uncertainty for the future. The Kalamazoo Institute of Arts includes Lange's poignant photograph among its Permanent Collection and will be showing the piece in an upcoming exhibition entitled Light Works: Photographs from the Collection.

The KIA is hosting a writing contest called Inspired by Art. Adults and students grade 6-8 and 9-12 are invited to submit up to 200 words inspired by Migrant Mother.


  • Top winners in each of the three categories (adult, grades 6-8 and grades 9-12) will receive $100 and have their entry published on the KIA website and in the exhibition gallery
  • Runners-up will receive KIA memberships and be published online
  • Entries of special merit will also be considered for publication

Writers may interpret the image broadly. Themes could include, but are not limited to, historical perspecitve, social commentary, women's perspective/gender issues, etc. All writing formats are welcome and may include, but are not limited to, memoir, poetry, short shorts or prose poems, fiction, essays, etc.

Contest entries will be juried by Kalamazoo Friends of Poetry. All entries will be judged blind. Judges will consider how the submission reflects the writer's personal connection to the image as well as the thought and originality demonstrated.

Entries must be:

  • Submitted as an email attachment in .DOC or .RTF format to
  • No longer than 200 words
  • Labeled at top with author's name, address, email, phone number and jurying category: Grade 6-8, Grade 9-12 or Adult
  • Received no later than Friday, October 29, 2010
  • To be considered for publication or cash awards, a release form authorizing the use and publication must be received or postmarked no later than October 29, 2010. To obtain a release form, please click here. Mail or deliver release form to Writing Contest, Kalamazoo Institute of Arts, 314 S. Park St. Kalamazoo, MI 49007. Release forms may also be faxed to the KIA at (269) 349-9313

Winners and finalists will be announced on November 8, 2010 on the KIA website, Questions? Contact Susan Eckhardt at (269) 349-7775 ext. 3160 or

Inspired by Art Writing Contest is made possible in part by a grant from the Michigan Humanities Council, an affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities. Any views, findings, conclusions or recommendations expressed in this exhibition and related programs do not necessarily reflect those of the National Endowment for the Humanities of the Michigan Humanities Council.

The Kalamazoo Institute of Arts is a nonprofit art museum and school. Since 1924, the institute has offered art classes and free-admission programming, including exhibitions, lectures, events, activities and a permanent collection. The KIA's mission is to cultivate the creation and appreciation of the visual arts for the communities of West Michigan.