Creativity on the Fly ~ A Contest for the Birds!

Creativity on the Fly ~ A Contest for the Birds!

When we look to the sky, or hear a neighborly squawk, or glimpse the whirl of a hummingbird’s wings, we are reminded of the millions of feathered friends who share our community. From the cactus wren nesting in the cholla to the white-winged doves pollinating saguaros, the Sonoran Desert is alive with around 400 species of birds. It’s time to create something beautiful about birds, for birds, and for the community. 

Creativity on the Fly is a program created by Ironwood Tree Experience and Sonoran Joint Venture that invites community members ages 12-20 to paint, write, draw, and document the intersections of humans and birds. This program looks at three themes: migration and immigration; nests and homes; relationships and community. Through the resources below, teachers, students and community members can learn about migration, nest-making, and relationships within the world of our feathered friends. Then, we invite participants to reflect on their own experience with those themes. How are they similar? How are they different?

Participants choose an artistic medium (see below) to capture their reflections on these themes. All submissions will be showcased at the Historic YWCA during an evening gallery walk on Friday, May 13 in honor of World Migratory Bird Day (May 14th). They will also have their work published in the Sonoran Joint Venture bilingual newsletter, and will receive a bird basket (binoculars, books, art supplies).


Choose 1 (or more) of the themes below and watch a video, read an article, or reflect on your own experience.

All About Birds is a great starting resource.

How are birds and humans similar and/or different when we think about these themes?

Migration & Immigration Nests & Home Community & Relationships
Crane Migration

Sandhill Migration

Swainson’s Hawk

Whimbrel Migration

Love Birds in Phoenix

Barred Owl Hatching

Hummingbirds Nesting

Lucy’s Wharblers

Red Tailed Hawk Egg Laying

Acorn Woodpeckers & Kinship

White Winged Dove & Saguaros

Bird Mating Dances

Elegant Trogon


Choose 1 of the 5 categories of submission. Depending on your category, when you submit your work, you can either send us a .jpeg, .png or .pdf, or you can mail us your submission:

Ironwood Tree Experience c/o Creativity on the Fly Contest

738 N. 5th Ave. Suite 101

Tucson, AZ 85705

Drawing/Digital Art Painting/Collage Photography Dance/Music Writing/Poetry
Digital Art, Sketching, Markers, Ink Acrylic, Oil, Mixed Media Creations, Water Color Digital or Print Photography Song, Interpretive Dance, Choreography Creative Nonfiction, Fiction, Poetry

Sample Submissions

Lovingly donated by our community, here are some examples of submissions for various categories.

Category: Writing/Poetry

Writer: Alegría Gray

The air is thick and heavy
There is a breeze from a fan and also from outside
It’s moving the sheets just a little
The bodies of my mom and aunts and female cousins stir in the giant bed
I am the only one who actually wakes all the way up out of fog of heat
I crawl out from under the wet sheets
 careful not to wake anyone and gently step on the floor.
Even the floor is warm here and offers no relief from this heat
I can hear my grandfather talking to my great uncle as they fix cars drinking colas to stay cool
the birds never stop singing or maybe a better word talking back and forth
Macaos macoyando en el patyo
Chismiando como tias
Even in this desert
My casita
In a cold winter my heart longs for my other home.

Artist Statement: In the poem, I talk about how birds talk to each other and they’re macoyando (having a conversation). Bird calls are a way of talking to one another like people do. It’s how they communicate like how we communicate with one another. I’ve always thought bird calls are some of the most beautiful sounds. And when we learn how to listen to one another, to the world around us, we can make more space for the people, the places, life, the birds. It’s not just about birds, it’s about my tías, my family and finding the sound and finding my family through sound. Finding a memory through sound.

Category: Painting/Collage

Artist: Josh Heath

Gambel’s Quail by Josh Heath

Artist Statement: For me, painting is a lot about presence and acceptance. I often remind myself to be present and accept my art for what it is rather than how I judge it to be. I also believe that we can learn a lot from nature and how well it demonstrates these traits. When I saw a picture of this quail, I felt the content appreciation of its beautiful environment and I hope to have conveyed its nature in this piece.

Submit Your Creation!

Please fill out the application below if you are submitting online. If you are submitting by dropping off your work or mailing it to ITE, please include a 2-3 sentence artist statement describing your work. Some ideas for your artist statement could include: What themes did you focus on? How are humans and birds similar and/or different? What connects you with birds? What do you love about birds?