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Controversial AI-created artwork that won first place, sparks changes at Colorado State Fair

When submitting their artwork, artists will have to declare if they used AI software to create their pieces
Posted at 8:09 PM, Jul 18, 2023

PUEBLO — Changes are coming to the Colorado State Fair's digital art competition. The changes come after a controversial piece of artificial intelligence-generated artwork won the first place prize last year.

Last year, a piece of artwork called ‘Théâtre D’opéra Spatial,’ or ‘Space Opera Theater,’ gained nation wide attention from the art and tech community after winning the competition.

Jason M. Allen from Pueblo West is the artist behind the piece. He created the art using artificial intelligence, and an online art program called Mid Journey. Many claimed the win was unfair, broke the rules and went against digital art methods.

“Immediately, I was faced with the animosity and contention of the art community,” said Allen, who claimed he put 80+ hours in the artwork, and generated more than 900 images by formulating and testing a prompt. Allen called his artwork creative writing, as he authored the piece, used trial and error, and creative words and prompts.

This year, artists can submit artwork that is AI-generated, and it will still be eligible to be judged in the digital art category in the fine arts show. However, when submitting their artwork, artists will have to declare if they used AI software to create their pieces.

“We are at the front of this, and we've been forced to be pioneers,” said Scott Stoller, the general manager of the Colorado State Fair. “Nobody came forward after looking through our competition requirements to see how there was a violation."

Stoller added like technology, art is always evolving and so are the rules for competitions.

“The board agreed that all digital art entries have to declare what medium they use to develop it. So whether it's Photoshop or Mid Journey, and then also they have to declare if it's AI-assisted or not,” said Stoller.

Stoller said the judges will have all information available to them and use their own discretion to judge the art. The public will also be able to see what medium was used to create the artwork once the art is on display.

“You have to acknowledge that AI is a thing. It's a tool that people can use in digital art, and our expert judges will be the ones that that score that and decide who the winner is,” said Stoller. “We think that this is the best path forward, and every year we go through we look at our requirements, and there may be tweaks after this year.”

However, the artist at the center of last year's controversy is still questioning the change.

“How is it important? I don't think that we need to make a distinction between whether or not we're creating anything with a paintbrush or photoshop or a car or AI. It's art, so I didn't think there was a limitation on art,” said Allen. “Suddenly, now we’re having a conversation about something other than art.”

Allen told News5 he will be submitting five pieces of AI-generated artwork this year. He said he’s looking forward to his artwork being displayed once again, and sparking conversation once again across the art community.

“I thought to myself, how could I make this unmistakable art? There can be no argument as to whether or not this is art in the future. And so I searched far and wide for a technology that could accomplish my vision,” said Allen. “I successfully did and it's fantastic. It's the best thing I've ever made.”

The deadline to submit artwork entries is Wednesday, July 19.

Stoller said if AI artwork becomes more popular, and they more AI-generated entries, they may consider making it its own category in the future.

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