Announcing the 2023 Sustainable Orillia Art Contest!

In 1970, Joni Mitchell, Canadian singer and songwriter had a hit song called “Big Yellow Taxi.” The song contained the line, “You don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone,” and went on to lament, “They paved paradise and put up a parking lot.” Mitchell was obviously way ahead of her time in drawing attention to human activities disrupting the natural world.Sustainable Orillia’s 2023 Art Contest wants students artists from across our community to take a look at “what we’ve got” so we can make sure we don’t lose it in future.  The theme of the contest is:


The contest asks contest participants to stop and think about all the forms of life that surround us—some of which we’re hardly ever aware of in our usual daily lives. 

From moose to minnows to microscopic organisms, we humans share our world with thousands of other living species, both plant and animal. They’re in the trees (some ARE trees), they’re in the water, they’re in the soil, and yes, they’re even in US! The contest invites students at the elementary and secondary levels—and yes, local artists of the grown-up kind—to, first of all, go exploring. Do it literally by going out in the yard or the nearby field or forest. Do it virtually by looking on your computer for the thousands of species that surround us here in the Orillia region. See the many amazing species that we share space with here in our community.

Once you’ve done some exploring, decide on a particular species (one is enough, but you might want to include more) that you’d like to celebrate in a piece of art—a drawing or a painting. Once your work is finished, write a short (max. 100 words) note about why you chose this particular species.


Elementary and Secondary School students:  Wednesday, May 31st, 2023 (noon)

Work produced in local schools, high school and elementary, will be collected at each participating school, at noon on May 31st. 

Cash prizes will be awarded for the top three secondary school selections as follows: 

First prize:  $300 

Second prize: $200 

Third prize: $100

For the nine top elementary school submissions there’s a cash award of $50 each. Winning submissions will be determined by a jury, and all submissions will be considered for publication in Sustainable Orillia’s 2024 Calendar.

In addition, works may be curated and artists asked to allow works to be shown in a “Biodiversity Art Show” during Sustainable Orillia Month—September of 2023. While the venue is yet to be determined for this showing, a downtown Orillia gallery is preferred.

Okay, contest participants, ready, set, go!

Find those species. (Surprise us with some really amazing ones that most don’t know about.)

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