Three Reasons to Incorporate Culminating Experiences Into Arts Programming

BGCA’s Ashley Payton is here to share why special showcases of youth arts work is vital, and to celebrate the winners of the 2023 National Arts Contest!

The room grew silent. The lights dimmed. My scene partner and I stood frozen behind the red curtains. He sat on the sofa stationed center stage while I stood behind the freestanding door center stage left. The moment we had been preparing for all semester at the Local competition was here. We were competing on our high school’s speech team in the Dramatic Duet Acting (DDA) category. The curtains separated, and ACTION… fast forward, we won first place in the Novice DDA category during that competition, and what a rewarding experience it was for us!

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Through this competition and culminating experience, we demonstrated mastery of our skills after months of training and coaching, learned from our peers, received recognition and constructive feedback, and, most notably, personal fulfillment and validation that boosted our self-confidence. 

A culminating experience is a significant and celebratory event that marks the culmination or completion of a body of work, product, or a specific phase in an artist’s journey. It is a showcase or exhibition where artists present their work in various art forms, such as digital, performance, applied, and visual arts. Examples of culminating experiences include but are not limited to art exhibitions and galleries, multidisciplinary showcases, film screenings, theatrical performances, etc.

Let’s delve into three compelling reasons why incorporating a culminating experience into your Arts program/offerings is highly beneficial for young artists.

Demonstration and Recognition

A culminating art experience is a carefully planned, organized, and execution-based event that requires weeks and months of coaching, training, and skill development. Youth can engage in targeted activities and programming that build their technical art skills, organizational skills, and social-emotional skills in collaboration with their peers and adults. Culminating events provide artists a platform to demonstrate mastery and showcase their talent, skill, and hard work while receiving acknowledgment and rewards for their hard work and dedication. 

Portfolio-Building and Exposure

An Art portfolio is a curated collection of an artist’s best work. It serves as a visual representation of an artist’s creativity, skills, style, and vision. Engaging in a culminating experience sets high expectations for young artists to produce exceptional outputs, fostering integrity for their art form and cultivating a strong work ethic. Portfolios also strengthen their artistic credentials and can be advantageous when applying for broader opportunities. These events also introduce youth to broader audiences, including recruiters, curators, and other professional artists who can serve as gateways to additional opportunities such as collaborations, scholarships, and other future career prospects. 

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Social-Emotional Skill Building

Participating in culminating experiences requires a great deal of courage and resilience. Artists who share their work must embrace vulnerability as they open themselves up to receive feedback and critiques from peers, mentors, and other experts in their craft – This feedback can be instrumental in helping them gain new insights and refine their techniques. Additionally, participating in culminating events involves overcoming setbacks and new challenges, such as technical difficulties, creative blocks, adaptability, performance anxiety, and problem-solving. These 21st century skills and qualities are essential for success in any artistic or creative field.

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Culminating experiences can provide an equitable opportunity for artist development through relevant, responsive, and high-quality programming. Scaffolding and designing programming and learning experiences that prepare youth for culminating experiences is highly beneficial to their development and artistic journey.  

BGCA’s Culminating Experience

The Boys & Girls Clubs of America (BGCA) annually hosts a National Arts Contest (NAC). Many Clubs and affiliate Youth Centers design their Arts programming and leverage the National Arts Contest as their culminating Arts experience. For the 2023 NAC, BGCA expanded the art submission from visual arts only to digital, applied, performance, and visual arts forms. Additionally, we introduced new and challenging thematic categories that helped youth exercise their resiliency. 

These brave artists rose to the challenge and worked hard to develop and submit their pieces. We received hundreds of contest submissions across the Boys & Girls Clubs Movement. Congrats to all of the 2023 National Arts Contest Finalists and get prepared to participate in the 2024 NAC learning more about the new thematic categories in the announcements and resources link below.  

Missed the finalists and their work? Watch the 2023 National Arts Contest Award Show on BGCA’s Virtual Club platform by clicking here. To view the entire gallery, sign into your MyFuture account and then click here.

Stay tuned, important announcements for the 2024 National Arts Contest will be shared next month!  

More Arts Resources 

What are your favorite ways to incorporate showcase events into arts programming? How do you integrate arts into summer programming? Let us know! Comment below, on the BGCA Youth Development Facebook page, or email

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