Emancipation Bells Design Competition

Bells can last for hundreds of years. Cast in bronze, they are snapshots in time, set to music, that resonate across the centuries. It’s not uncommon in the old towns and villages of Europe to find bells from the 17th and 18th centuries still ringing in merry jubilation. Often, these are marked with intricate engravings and designs that suggest the people, places, and inspiration behind the bells’ casting. Are you ready to contribute to that rich heritage?

Submission Requirements

The National Bell Festival invites any resident of Ward 7 and Ward 8 in Washington, D.C., to submit artwork to adorn the 21 largest carillon bells in the east belfry of the Emancipation Bells. This is a unique competition to leave your mark on the capital skyline. One winner will be selected, with the winning artwork set in bronze.

Technical guidelines

Each submission must include two (2) PDFs as follows:

  1. PDF: Questionnaire. Please complete our submission questionnaire. All questions are required and all provided information must be in English.
  2. PDF: Artwork. Please download and adhere to the complete design specifications

You must return both requested documents in PDF format. Submissions may be emailed to: EMAIL

The deadline to receive artwork submissions is April 16, 2023. No late submissions will be accepted. The winning design will be announced by June 19, 2023.

Evaluation criteria

Each submission will be evaluated on these benchmarks:

  1. Does the artist live in Ward 7 or Ward 8 of Washington, D.C., where the Emancipation Bells will be located?
  2. Does the submission include both required PDFs? Incomplete or incorrectly formatted submissions will not be considered.
  3. Does the artwork fit the provided template and adhere to all technical specifications?
  4. Does the design seem appropriate to the dignity of the space? Originality, coherence, and clarity of design will be considered. The concepts of abolition, freedom, equality, and/or music should be central to your artwork. 

Submissions will be evaluated and ranked by a blind competition jury; the artist’s personally identifiable information (PII) will not be provided to the jury nor used to qualify or disqualify a submission. PII will only be used to verify that the selected artist meets residency requirements.

Accommodations

Any resident of Ward 7 or Ward 8 in Washington, D.C., regardless of age, background, or access to technology, is invited to submit their artwork. If you do not have access to design software like Adobe Illustrator, we are happy to accept pen and ink drawings. Should your submission be selected as the winning design, we will work with you to digitize your artwork for use by the bell foundry. If you require these or any other accommodations, please contact the National Bell Festival.

Frequently Asked Questions

Do you offer a cash prize?
We do not offer a cash prize. Only one (1) winner will be selected. The winning prize is having artwork featured on the Emancipation Bells.

If my entry is accepted, what will you use for reproduction?
If your artwork is accepted, we will request high-res reproduction materials at that time or work with you to create them.

What rights do I retain if my work is chosen?
You retain all rights as creator of your artwork. If selected, you will confer on the National Bell Festival the right to reproduce the artwork not only on the Emancipation Bells, but also for any digital and/or print publications, in perpetuity.

Why won’t every bell have my design?
Even though there are 52 carillon bells, only the heaviest 21 bells will be large enough to accommodate both artwork and abolitionist names, in addition to the foundry marks. 

How does the judging take place?
A blind jury will be established for the review of artwork submissions and the selection of the winning design. Each juror will view a portion of all entries independently, choosing “in” or “out” for each piece. The full jury will then review all selected “in” designs, voting individually in a secret ballot. After the judges make their selections, all votes are tallied. A simple majority will determine the winner.

When will I know if my design is chosen?
If your artwork is selected, we will notify you within two (2) months after the final deadline date, corresponding with June 19, 2023. Because of the number of entries we anticipate receiving, we will only personally notify the winning artist. An announcement will be made on Bells.org to announce the winner.

Terms and Conditions

There is no entry fee to participate, nor will you be compensated in any way for submitting your artwork. The National Bell Festival is not responsible for any costs or fees you may incur when designing or submitting your artwork. 

Your design will be discarded without consideration if you fail to abide by these submission requirements:

  • We will not accept multiple submissions from you. Only send us your best! If you submit more than one design, we will only judge the first received.
  • The design must be 100% original and entirely your own. It may not comprise another artist’s work or infringe on any copyrights.
  • The use of trademarks, logos, licensable art, or brands is prohibited. 
  • We do not tolerate religiously offending, racist, sexist, or sexually explicit visuals, nor those condoning violence.

Only one (1) submission will be accepted as the winning design. The winner will be notified and requested to develop art files for submission to the bell foundry. We may request edits or adjustments to the final design to better accommodate production needs.

The National Bell Festival reserves the right to not select a winner from the entries received for any reason. No other prize or monetary compensation will be awarded.

The competition winner will automatically confer license on the National Bell Festival to reproduce the selected artwork on bells and related promotional materials (including rights to photograph and publish the artwork electronically on Bells.org and in other media). Your design may be reprinted by the National Bell Festival in perpetuity without limitation. Where practical, the winning designer will be credited as the originator of the artwork.

By submitting your artwork, you agree to these terms and conditions.