Reflections Arts Program

Reflections Timeline



  • Program founded by Mary Lou Anderson
  • View Mary Lou Anderson's cultural arts essay
  • “Without the Arts, education is paltry indeed!” - Mary Lou Anderson, Reflections Founder from Colorado
  • Originally included Literature, Visual Arts and Music Composition categories
  • First Reflections theme in 1969: Children and Youth, Mirror their World

Mary Lou Anderson

LiteratureMusicVisual Arts



  • 1970-1971 theme: Reflections: Children and Youth Look to Tomorrow


National Scholarship Winners

LiteratureMusicVisual Arts




  • Mary Lou Anderson starts giving scholarships to National winners
  • Traveling Exhibit introduced, sponsored by Allied Van Lines


  • Photography category introduced


LiteratureMusicPhotographyVisual Arts




  • Reflections turns 25 with 700,000 student entries from 53 congresses


  • Kindergartners invited to participate
  • “It warms my heart to see a child excel in something like this [Reflections Program], especially when they don't always succeed in their regular school work.” – Anna from Louisiana


  • “When you’re recognized for your artistic ability as a child, it gives you more confidence to pursue it as an adult.” – April Maddox, 1998 Reflections participant from Virginia

LiteratureMusicPhotographyVisual Arts



  • 2000-2001 theme: It Would be Really Strange If…


  • “When I participated in the Reflections program, it fed creativity. It made me feel like the arts were an integral part of what we did at school. It reinforced both my identity as a creative person and my value as a creative person. The Reflections program opened the door to pursue music as I got older.” – Anabel Martinez-Pauline, Reflections participant from California


  • Film Production and Dance Choreography categories introduced

DanceFilmLiteratureMusicPhotographyVisual Arts



  • 2010-2011 theme: Together We Can…


  • Special Artist Division added to provide accommodations for students with disabilities
  • "I never imagined the terrific, positive affect this contest would have on our family. I am writing this because I want you to know that this program truly makes an impact in others’ lives. I know it did for us. It came at a time when it was so important for not only my son, but our whole family to have something happy to talk about. It turned a difficult topic into something positive that he could share with others. Best of all, he learned that not only could he share his feelings about something difficult, but he could be rewarded for it!" – Joy Blackburn, mother of a Jack Williams, Special Artist winner from Colorado


  • The first Awards & Reflections Celebration at National PTA Convention was held to provide an elevated red-carpet banquet experience for Reflections winners and their families to attend.


  • National PTA publishes the ArtsEd Leader’s Guide, in collaboration with Americans for the Arts for arts advocates who value a complete education that includes the arts with the goal to improve family-school partnerships and arts education.


  • Reflections turns 50!

Reflections 50th Anniversary


Reflections 50th at Convention


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  • 2020-2021 theme: I Matter Because…
  • “I believe the arts in school is so important especially for those who are creatives. With so much push for STEM in school (which is great for the minds who naturally gravitate that way) we can’t forget about the kids whose brains see things from a different perspective” – Carnelian PTA in California

  • Mary Lou Anderson inducted in the Colorado Women's Hall of Fame

DanceFilmLiteratureMusicPhotographyVisual ArtsSpecial Education


Contact your State PTA Reflections Program, your State PTA or email info@PTA.org.

Reflections Navigation

Encourage and celebrate student participation in arts education.

Learn about our winners, events and exhibits and see what you can win!

Apply for a grant and use our toolkit to advocate for arts education.

Proud Sponsors of National PTA’s Reflections Program

Park West Foundation