The contest will be adjudicated by the Pacific Northwest Art School. Artists are asked to submit their work digitally. The contest is divided into categories according to age: children,12 and under; youth, 13-18; and adults 18 and older. Deadline for submission is August 15. Top prize winners in each category will win $100; second and third-place winners will be awarded $50.
Originally founded in 2017 by Sandy Peterson, a Republican, and Cathy Whitmore, a Democrat, Civility First formed with the premise of finding ways to talk to each other in the face of polarizing points of view. According to its website: “Civility First promotes listening and learning from people with differing perspectives, and modeling civility and respectful behavior in public life. Civility First is asking civic and community leaders, civic groups, religious groups and concerned citizens to commit to respectful listening, civil behavior and being role models for our children. We want our communities, schools, and public meetings to be safe places for honest discourse.”
Rebecca ‘Beck’ Diamond is the non-profit’s new executive director and accepted the role earlier this month. She arrived from Michigan to the Pacific Northwest eight years ago, and moved from Mukilteo to Whidbey three years ago.
“Before working with Civility First, I was working for other not-for-profits on the island,” she said. “I want to expand our focus and become even more inclusive. Part of the work we do is creating space for difficult conversations. Part of that work brings us to art and how it lends itself to the work of Civility First.”
Earning a Masters in Cultural Studies from the UW, Beck is interested in society and its institutions, how power is used, and how we cultivate our identity.
And the word civility itself has its own pros and cons in her mind. Beck sees expanding the original intent of Civility First from its emphasis on Republicans and Democrats engaged in conversation on difficult issues.
“‘’Let’s unpack what the word civility has done, then we can work to reclaim the word,” she said. “‘Our language and symbols used till now have unintentionally narrowed our audience.’’ Using ‘red’ and ‘blue’ restricts the participants to those who identify as a Democrat and Republican.”
“Today, many feel they are not represented by the flag,” Beck added. “We can attempt to change these feelings but first we have to acknowledge all that has been done in the name of civility.
“A huge part of this is education. We need to break down the framework of how I view myself in the world. I see that as the work of Civility First — creating space for those revelations. It doesn’t only have to be about red or blue. It’s about being a person in the world. It is important to think about our global community, especially since the pandemic. We can’t think just about our national identity. It is helpful to see what is limiting us and what the possibilities for expanding are. This encourages curiosity. When we are curious instead of fearful that is another opening. Curiosity over fear.”
Beck talked about expanding the way we think, about getting out of our habit of ‘binary thinking.’
“Something can be true and simultaneously something else can be true,” she added. “You might change your mind about judging ‘X.’ I like to call these ‘’yes, and… conversations.’ The ‘red’ and the ‘blue’ are a shortcut to knowing someone. ‘’These shortcuts rely on assumptions and so called ‘’common sense’’ to understand who someone is. We need to do the harder work of getting to know people. Encouraging our community to think about kindness, respect and listening through art is a soft, easy, and safe entrance.”
In the mean time, winners of the contest will be decided in September. The award ceremony will be held in October. Civility First is hoping to host an in-person reception then, depending on social distancing restrictions at the time. To submit an art entry, visit this site.