Art Tales Writing Contest


Art Tales: 8th annual writing contest inspired by art now open through April 4, 2016

Visit E. P. Foster Library 2nd floor or the links below and choose the artwork that inspires you to create and enter your own poem or short story, 500 words or less by April 4, 2016.
● Free and open to all writers worldwide  ● Prizes in 3 age categories
● To receive future contest notices sign up here and check the "Art Tales News" box under your profile

Art & Theme: "Artist Next Door/Our Local Story"

“Artist Next Door/Our Local Story,” the Art Tales theme for 2016, celebrates Ventura’s 150th birthday in April through four artists whose works in the Municipal and Public Art Collections tell our city’s unique story by depicting its classic neighborhoods, citrus orchards, proud history and hip downtown.”
    – Tobie Roach, Art Tales Curator

When the Stranger says: “What is the meaning of this city?
Do you huddle close together because you love each other?”
What will you answer? … “This is a community”?

― from Choruses from The Rock – T.S. Eliot

Click the links below to view and download reproductions of artworks, contest info and the required release form:
1) Ortega Adobe, by Marguerite Hardeman, c. 1960s, oil on canvas, 31" x 37"
2) Catalina Street V, by Katherine McGuire, 2002, watercolor on paper, 22" x 28"
3) Oranges Against Shadows, by Meredith Brooks Abbott, 1999, oil on canvas, 21" x 25"
4) Thrift, by Paula Odor, 1999, watercolor, 34" x 28"
5) All 4 contest artworks in one PDF, each printable on 8.5" x 11" sheets
6) Teacher and writer lesson plan with entry rules, artist bios on featured art &  written models poems - see the archives below for past anthologies of winners in prose and poetry
7) Download to fill, save and send the REQUIRED RELEASE FORM in English or Spanish

TEACHERS: Contact Tobie Roach at 805.658-4759 or to request printed copies of materials.


  1. Visit E.P. Foster Library, 651 E Main St in Ventura, to view the current exhibit of artworks from the City of Ventura Municipal Art Collection: View images and complete contest kit at
  2. Write an original poem or short story (no more than 500 words in length) inspired by ONE of the artworks there that “calls” to you. Only ONE contest entry per person please.
  3. Prepare your entry as an electronic word document, in English or Spanish, in a twelve-point font, including at the top: the author’s name, address, phone number, email address, age, title of work and number of words.
  4. Submit your entry by April 1, 2015 BY EMAIL ONLY to with "Art Tales" as the email subject line – together with a completed release form (see next item below).
  5. Complete a savable pdf release form (forma de acuerdo) – parents must do this for youth entries under 18 – copy the document to your desktop, fill it in, save and send it along with your entry poem or short story.

A committee of professionals, educators, librarians and City of Ventura staff will judge entries on creativity, presentation and correspondence to a specific artwork to select their top three choices for separate poetry and short fiction categories in three age divisions: Youth (grades 2 - 8) High School (grades 9 - 12) Adult (age 18 and up)

All winners receive a bound edition of the judges’ selection with cash prizes for first ($30) and second ($15) place. The Mayor of Ventura presents the awards in April or May during a library reading of works by contest winners: all contest participants, their families and friends and the public are invited to attend this special event where refreshments are served.

Qualified entries shall be (a) either a single short story or poem (one entry per person) (b) no longer than 500 words (c) written solely by the entrant (d) not previously published (e) nor in conflict with trademark, copyright, rights of privacy, rights of publicity or any other rights, of any kind or nature, of any other person or entity; (f) which does not include any language or other content that is indecent or inappropriate as determined by the CITY in its discretion. Entries not satisfying these criteria in any respect will be disqualified. By entering the contest winners agree to give the City of Ventura a nonexclusive license to publish their work online and in a limited edition.

BACKGROUND: The City of Ventura is pleased to sponsor the annual creative contest open to all writers worldwide in partnership with E.P. Foster Library located at 651 E Main St in downtown Ventura. The contest invites imaginative writers of all ages to compose a short story or poem (500 words maximum) inspired by one of the artworks currently on exhibit at the library from the Municipal Art Collection. These selections from the City Hall collection are rotated annually to a special second floor exhibit space near the library’s rear (children's) entrance in an effort to make them more accessible to the community.

The Municipal Art Collection, on permanent exhibit in City Hall, continues to be an important attraction for both residents and visitors. Since its inception in 1999, the collection has grown to include 92 works by 71 artists, each of whom have made a significant contribution to the history of visual art in Ventura County – a main criterion of acquisition. The Municipal Art Acquisition Program through its Municipal Art Acquisition Committee, a sub-committee of the Public Art Commission, oversees the purchase of new artworks. The Municipal Art Collection showcases the breadth and diversity of Ventura County’s visual art community through the representation of multiple media, including sculpture, painting, photography, etching, and ceramics. The entire collection may be viewed online at For more information contact Denise Sindelar at 805/658-4793 or

ARCHIVE: Contest Anthologies & Documents - 2009-2016 Art Tales featured artworks

Art Tales 2015 postcard exhibit  anthology  winners artists artworks lesson plan & model poems

Art Tales 2015 postcard exhibit  anthology  winners artists artworks lesson plan & model poems

Art Tales 2014 postcard exhibit  anthology  winners artists artworks

Art Tales 2013 postcard exhibit  anthology  winners artists artworks

Art Tales 2012 postcard exhibit  anthology  winners artists artworks

Art Tales 2011 postcard exhibit  anthology  winners artists & artworks

Art Tales 2010 postcard exhibit  anthology  winners artists & artworks

Art Tales 2009 postcard exhibit  anthology  winners artists & artworks

Mayor honored Art Tales winners at EP Foster Library reception & reading on May 21, 2015

City of Ventura Mayor Cheryl Heitmann honored all participants and artists of the 7th annual Art Tales creative writing contest with a special reception and reading with refreshments at E.P. Foster Library, 2nd floor, 651 E Main St in downtown Ventura. The public, family and friends were invited to hear winners read their entries and receive cash prizes for 1st and 2nd place, journals for 3rd place plus certificates and bound editions for all top entries.

For the contest “open to writers everywhere” youth, high school and adult writers submitted 105 works of fiction and poems inspired by City of Ventura Municipal Art Collection works of art on loan at the library and created by artists Jacquelyn Cavish, Sally Miller, Richard Phelps and Helle Sharling-Todd (also invited to the reception). Contestants ranged in age from 6 to 79 or older with submissions from San Francisco to Los Angeles and a few from the Midwest; but most entries came from Ventura County, almost half were by adults, 26 by teenagers and 30 by youths 12 or under.

Many teachers from the Ventura Unified School District, Brooks Institute, California Poets in the Schools and The ARC of Ventura County for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities encouraged their students to enter. The five contest judges were Sara Roberts, Deputy Director for the Ventura County Library, Ventura County Poet Laureate Mary Kaye Rummel, Ventura Public Art Chair Claudia Pardo,

Ventura Library Advisory Commissioner Dolly Moehrle and City of Ventura Community Partnerships Manager Denise Sindelar. “It was a pleasure to read every entry,” said Claudia Pardo. “So many good pieces,” Mary Kaye Rummel added, “I had a hard time deciding.”