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Know Your Power: A civic engagement art contest  for D.C. teens, 13 - 19. A joint partnership of DC Public Library, Pepco, An Exelon Company and the DC Public Library Foundation.

Contest Overview

A charcoal drawing of a middle aged man sleeping on a couch

Art is a powerful tool to share social messages and inspire change. Visual artists like Shepard Fairey, musicians like Beyonce and authors like Mira Jacob have used their creative voices to speak truth to power and raise awareness of the important issues facing us today. Pepco, the DC Public Library Foundation and DC Public Library invite you to find your power and use it to creatively address a topic that is important to you. What change would you like to see in the world? We are calling on youth between the ages of 13 - 19 to use their creative voice to make a difference. 

Between May 22 and Aug. 15, submit an original work of writing, photography, film, visual art, or music that expresses your feelings on a social issue that matters to you.  We’re looking for pieces that are not only well-crafted but have a strong voice and perspective on a subject pertaining to civic engagement.

Winners will be selected in the categories of Visual Art, Writing, Music, and Film & Photography. Entries will be judged by representatives from Pepco and D.C. Public Library's Teen Council.

"Sink" Illustration by Skye Jones, 2022 visual art winner

What Can I Win?

  • Prize for Writing: Laptop
  • Prize for Film & Photography: Canon EOS 4000D
  • Prize for Visual Art: Wacom CTL4100 Intuos Graphics Drawing Tablet
  • Prize for Music: Fender Electric Guitar

All winners will have their work published on the library's website.

When Will Winners Be Notified?

All who submit to the contest are invited to a showcase event in September to show off their work and meet other teens who create. Winners will be announced at the event. (If your work is selected and you are unable to attend the showcase, you will be notified and arrangements will be made for you to receive your prizes.) More details will be made available closer to the date of the Showcase.

Submit Your Entry

What are the Contest Rules?

  1. This contest is open to participants between the ages of 13 and 19.
  2. You can submit multiple entries in multiple categories.
  3. Writing can be up to 1,500 words long and be in the format of a poem or short story.
  4. Photography entries may include 1 - 10 photos that make up a photo story.
  5. Video entries can be up to 6 minutes long.
  6. Music should be submitted as an .mp3 and be 1 - 3 minutes in length.
  7. Your submission must be original work. ​​​​​

Attend a Creative Workshop

Location Date & Time Description
MLK Library

Know Your Power Summit: Creativity for Community Change

Saturday, June 3, 2 p.m.

MLK Library, Conference Center

Get inspired to submit to the contest with a full afternoon of guest speakers and workshops. Guest speakers include illustrator Tracie Ching and author Jason Reynolds. Make original works of art, poetry, and music and discuss how creativity can be used to bring social change and create original works of art and music.
Exterior of the Anacostia Library

Project Create Visual Art Workshops

Tuesdays at 4 p.m.

Anacostia Library

Project Create, an Anacostia based arts organization, is hosting a series of visual art production workshops for teens! Each week teens will explore different aspects of creating work that speaks truth to power.
Tenley-Friendship Library

Spoken Word Poetry with Words, Beats, and Life

Tuesday, June 6, 4 p.m.

Tenley-Friendship Library

Learn how to use spoken word poetry to express your views on the world in this workshop hosted by teaching artists from Words, Beats, and Life. 
Exterior of the Palisades Library

Music Workshop with Words, Beats, and Life

Wednesday, June 14, 4 p.m.

Palisades Library

Learn how to write and perform music that will express your views on the world guided by teaching artists from Words, Beats, and Life.
Exterior of the Mt. Pleasant Library

Music Workshop with Words, Beats, and Life

Wednesday, June 20, 5:30 p.m.

Mt. Pleasant Library

Learn how to write and perform music that will express your views on the world guided by teaching artists from Words, Beats, and Life.


See the full schedule of Know Your Power Programs