I Strengthen My Nation: Artistic Expressions of Resilience to Stand Against Substance Misuse

Screen grab of art contest promo on We R Native website
Courtesy of We R Native

Calling all creative youth 14-25 years old with knowledge of American Indian/Alaska Native culture, tradition, and history! Are you concerned about substance misuse in your community? Are you a visual, literary (written), or performance artist? The National Institute on Drug Abuse in partnership with with the Northwest Portland Area Indian Health Board (NPAIHB), through the We R Native program, challenges you to create art that inspires others by demonstrating indigenous resilience to substance misuse for the chance to win some cash!

It’s simple- just send us your original artwork and explain how it represents resilience against substance misuse. You can send us any form of art, whether it’s a painting, theater production, music, fashion design, beading, poem, short story, or something else. We challenge you to create original art that reflects how indigenous culture and resiliency protect against substance misuse. We’re offering cash prizes to the most innovative, creative, unique submissions that clearly tie the work to resilience and will share the winning work across the country for everyone to see!

Read the official Rules and Requirements for more information.

UPDATE: The final submission deadline has been extended to December 10th, 2021. All entries submitted by the Round One submission date of July 7th, 2021 will be assessed during Round One Judging in July 2021, and all other entries will be assessed in Round Two Judging in January 2022. If you submit by the Round One, July 7th submission deadline and you are not selected for a prize in round one, your submission will still be considered in Round Two of judging unless you send an email to NIDAAIANComChallenge@nida.nih.gov stating you do not want to be considered in round two of judging.

Challenge Goal and Theme:

Challenge Goal

As part of its mission, The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), a component of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), seeks to identify intervention strategies to combat drug addiction. Recognizing that youth voices and creativity are critical to this goal, NIDA announces “I Strengthen My Nation: Artistic Expressions of Resilience to Stand Against Substance Misuse” in partnership with the NPAIHB, through the We R Native program. The goal of this challenge is to raise awareness of how resilience can combat substance abuse and inspire others to think about how resilience can be used in research to intervene on substance use outcomes in communities.  The topics that youth choose to highlight through their art will provide important insights to researchers and communities partners that can be used in the development and subsequent testing of community informed intervention strategies

Challenge Theme

The theme of this challenge is highlighting indigenous resilience to substance abuse. Resilience is the processes that individuals, families and communities use to cope, adapt and take advantage of assets in the face of stress. Art submissions should reflect indigenous resilience. All winning submissions will be widely distributed to raise awareness of how resilience can prevent substance misuse, motivating other youth to consider their own sources of resilience that can help combat substance misuse.


The NPAIHB is a non-profit tribal advisory organization serving the forty-three federally recognized tribes of Oregon, Washington, and Idaho (https://www.npaihb.org/). Among other programs, the NPAIHB carries out the We R Native program (https://www.wernative.org/). Through the We R Native program, NPAIHB has assisted NIDA in market research while developing the Challenge and will assist in advertising the Challenge and engaging Native youth as well as serving as external reviewers of submissions.

Dates and Deadlines

  • Final Submission Deadline Extended!
  • Total cash prizes offered: $500 for individual entries, $1,000 for group entries, total purse of $15,000
  • Type of challenge: Creative (art, performance, crafts, multimedia)
  • Submission Start: April 8th, 2021: 12:00 AM ET
  • Round One Submission Date: July 7th, 2021: 11:59 PM ET
  • Final Submission Date (Round 2): December 10th, 2021: 11:59 PM ET
  • Round One Judging: July 2021
  • Round Two Judging: January 2022
  • Winners Announced: July 30th, 2021 (Round One) and March, 2022 (Round Two)

How to Enter

Participants must send an email to NIDAAIANArtChallenge@nida.nih.gov using the subject line “AI/AN Art Challenge [Group or Individual] Entry” with the following:

  1. A completed individual entry form/waiver and group entry form (if applicable)
  2. A written or video response to the provided prompt below
  3. An attachment of their artwork, if digital, or a high-quality photo of their original piece
    • Whenever possible, original artwork should be mailed to the address below

High quality files, such as videos or photos, that are too large to be sent via email should be sent using a Box account (create a free account here). Once the free account is created and the video or large image file is uploaded, click on “Share” to the right of your file, enter the email address murrayjl@nih.gov, and click “Send” to share the file. 

Original works of art (beading, paintings, drawings, etc.) should be mailed to:

National Institute on Drug Abuse
Re: AI/AN Art Challenge

C/O NIH Mail Center
3WFN MSC 6024
16071 Industrial Dr
Gaithersburg, MD 20892*
*(Use 20892 for U.S. Postal Service, 20877 for UPS and FedEx)

If you submit by the Round 1 submission date of July 7th, your project will be considered in round one of judging. If you are not selected for a prize in round one, your submission will still be considered in round two of judging unless you send an email to NIDAAIANComChallenge@nida.nih.gov stating you do not want to be considered in round two of judging.

Submission requirements:

  1. Original work of art. Projects may include but are not limited to traditional and/or non-traditional painting, sketch, print, dance, music, theater, sculpting, beadwork, written work, and carving. It is preferred that you mail the physical piece of art, but you may also send a photo or video of the piece instead. Digital art submissions should be sent in a photo, video, or audio clip that includes a written title.
    • Video and audio clips should not exceed 5 minutes and must be sent via Box (create a free account here).
    • Written submissions (poetry, essays, short stories, etc.) should not exceed 5000 words.
  2. Written or video response. In 500 words or less, (written) OR approximately 30 seconds (video), explain: 1) your knowledge of and/or connection to AI/AN culture, and 2) how your artwork represents resiliency against substance misuse.
    • Type and submit your response in a PDF or word document and include the title of your original art OR attach your video as a file with the rest of your email submission
  3. Individual entry form. All participants MUST submit an individual entry form/waiver, including those participating in a group.
  4. Group entry form, if applicable. Each group must submit ONE group entry form per art submission in addition to individual entry forms (see requirement #3).


All qualifying entries will be assessed by a panel of Federal employees who may consider technical evaluations from external reviewers, comprised of prominent members of the American Indian and Alaska Native art community, as well as our partnering organization, NPAIHB through the We R Native program. Individual and group submissions will be treated as two separate categories and scored independent of one another.

The following criteria will be assessed: creativity, adherence to the theme, and potential for impact. 

  • Creativity and originality (0-10 points): Is the submission an original work of art? Is it inspiring, interesting, and/or thought-provoking? Is there a clear concept?
  • Theme (0-10 points): Does the art clearly indicate the theme of the Challenge? Is the submission relevant to American Indian and/or Alaska Native culture, communities, and/or individual identity? 
  • Impact (0-10 points): Does the submission include an accompanying written response that clearly ties the work to resilience?  Does the submission provoke thoughts surrounding the viewer’s own resiliency against substance misuse?
  • Overall impression (0-10 points): Does the submission show quality composition, production, and aesthetics?


NIDA may award up to twenty $500 individual awards and five $1000 group awards for a total of $15,000, though these amounts may vary contingent on the number and variety of entries. Groups must consist of 2 or more members and clearly show how each group member contributed to the project. Group submissions are most appropriate for performance art such as dance, theatre, and music. The winning names, titles of submissions, original art, and written responses will be posted on the NIDA and We R Native websites and social media accounts. The award approving official for the Challenge is the Director of NIDA.

Prizes awarded under this Challenge will be paid by electronic check funds transfer, therefore group leaders or individuals participating solo must have a valid bank account. In the case of submissions from group leaders or individuals participating solo who are under 18 years of age at the time of submission, the prize will be paid to the leader’s or individual’s parent or legal guardian who provided signed permission to participate in the Challenge. Prizes awarded under this Challenge may be subject to Federal income taxes; NIH/NIDA will comply with the Internal Revenue Service withholding and reporting requirements, where applicable.

NIH/NIDA reserves the right, in its sole discretion, to (a) cancel, suspend, or modify the Challenge, or any part of it, for any reason, and/or (b) not award any prizes if no entries are deemed worthy.

Statutory Authority to Conduct the Challenge: NIDA is conducting this Challenge under the America Creating Opportunities to Meaningfully Promote Excellence in Technology, Education, and Science (COMPETES) Reauthorization Act of 2010, as amended [15 U.S.C. § 3719]. The general purpose of NIDA is to conduct and support biomedical and behavioral research, health-services research, research training, and health-information dissemination with respect to the prevention of drug abuse and the treatment of drug abusers. This Challenge is consistent with and advances the mission of NIDA as described in 42 U.S.C. 285o in that it seeks to identify intervention strategies to combat drug addiction.

How to Enter, Eligibility, and Rules

Contact Information

Challenge email: NIDAAIANArtChallenge@nida.nih.gov

Jenna Murray
Fellow, Native American Program
National Institute on Drug Abuse


Kathy Etz, Ph.D.
Director, Native American Program
National Institute on Drug Abuse