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Coastal Art & Poetry Contest

By encouraging youth to reflect on the beauty and spirit of California's beaches and ocean, we hope to inspire a greater sense of stewardship for these natural places. A population that cares about the coast is more likely to work to conserve and protect it.

The Serene Coast, by Sara Jain, 11th grade, 2014 Honorable Mention
    The Serene Coast
    Sara Jain, 11th grade, Cupertino
    Honorable Mention in 2014

We are proud to present the 2014 winning entries and the honorable mentions in art and poetry!

View winning artwork and poetry from previous contests:
2013, 2012, 2011, 2010, 2009, 2008, 2007, 2006, 2005, 2004, 2003, 2002, 2001, 2000, 1999 and 1998.

Prizes provided in part by generous donations from Acorn Naturalists and Aquarium of the Pacific. Judging assistance provided by members of the Tabula Poetica program at Chapman University.

The 2014 Coastal Art & Poetry Contest winners and honorable mentions will be exhibited at the following locations during 2014.

You can purchase fine prints of a selection of our winners and honorable mentions, including all of the artwork honored in the 2014 contest. Visit the store.

2015 Coastal Art & Poetry Contest Guidelines:

WHO: All California residents in kindergarten through 12th grades are invited to participate. There are five categories for awards in both art and poetry:
K-1st, 2nd-3rd, 4th-6th, 7th-9th, and 10th-12th grade.

WHAT: Entries must have a California coastal or California marine theme (e.g. no tropical or Arctic settings or species -- for help with California species, click here.) Poems and artwork must be student's original work. If using a photo model taken by someone else, image must be significantly altered to avoid plagiarism. Art should be no larger than 11 inches by 17 inches. Acceptable art media are paint, pencil, markers, ink, crayon, chalk or pastel (fixed), and collage. Three-dimensional pieces, computer printouts, photography, or photocopies are not eligible in this contest. All entries must include a completed contest Entry Form.

Winners will be selected in each of five grade-level categories (K-1st, 2nd-3rd, 4th-6th, 7th-9th, and 10th-12th) in both art and poetry to receive a gift certificate for $100 to an art supply store (for winners in art) or book store (for winners in poetry). Winners and honorable mentions will receive tickets to Aquarium of the Pacific, courtesy of the Aquarium. Each winner's sponsoring teacher will receive a gift certificate for $50 for educational materials from Acorn Naturalists.

WHEN: Entries must be postmarked by January 31, 2015.

HOW: Review and complete the Guidelines and Entry Form and submit it with your art or poetry to:

California Coastal Commission
45 Fremont Street, Suite 2000
San Francisco, CA 94105

Students may have their work featured in California Coastal Commission materials and webpages. Students may enter multiple pieces. Artwork will only be returned if it is submitted with adequate postage and an address label for reuse of your original packaging (preferred) or a self-addressed, stamped envelope of the correct size. Entries that do not include these items at the time of submittal can not be returned. Poetry will not be returned. Winners and honorable mentions may be retained by the Commission for approximately one year for public exhibit.

For more information, or to request to have an entry form emailed, mailed, or faxed to you, contact the California Coastal Commission at
800-COAST-4U or

    2015 Entry Form and Guidelines in English

•    2015 Entry Form and Guidelines in Spanish

     (Poetry entries must be in English)

You can download the Contest Flyer as a PDF.

Teachers: Find free resources to help you teach about the coast and ocean.

Inspiration Brainstorming:
Below are just a few questions that might help encourage artwork or poetry. Entries need not be about anything in particular except the California coast or ocean. Create whatever our coast inspires you to create.

  • Have you ever been to a California beach?
  • What do you do at the beach?
  • What do you see at the beach?
  • What animals live on the coast or in the ocean off California?
  • How are people connected to the ocean?
  • What colors can you see at the beach?
  • What sounds do you hear at the beach?
  • What textures do you feel at the beach?
  • Why do you love the beach or the ocean?
  • What things may harm the California coast?
  • What does the ocean make you think of?
  • How does the ocean make you feel?
  • How can we protect the ocean?
  • Do you have a memory of being at the coast that was special/powerful/sad/comforting/mundane…?
  • What would California/your life/your community be like without the ocean?
  • What is California/your life/your community like because of the ocean?


If you depict specific species or habitats in your entry, they must be California species and habitats. (Of course, you are welcome to be more abstract in your work, and particular species need not be identifiable; but you are discouraged from submitting obviously non-California images such as clownfish, coconut palms, walruses, penguins, etc.) Below are some sites to educate you about the many native species of the California coast. If you know of another website to add to this list, please email us. These sites should be used for habitat and species information only. If using a photo model taken by someone else, the image must be significantly altered to avoid plagiarism.