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USFWS Disqualifies South Dakota Junior Duck Stamp Winner; Don’t Call Congress

Well, since Pat says X, I guess I have to say not-X...

Dakota War College portrays the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's enforcement of rules as tyranny against a six-year-old calling for Congressional action.

Six-year-old Madison Grimm from Burbank, South Dakota, won the 2013 national Junior Duck Stamp contest last weekend with a painting of a canvasback duck. Some parents and teachers questioned whether the painting was really young Grimm's own handiwork. The Federal Duck Stamp Service looked into the painting further. Grimm's dad Adam, a wildlife artist himself, said Madison traced one of his photos for her painting. They checked with their lawyers and decided to rescind Grimm's award and give the top prize to Pete Coulter of Washington, Missouri, for his painting of two snow geese.

Pat Powers flips, calling on Congress to take names and kick tailfeathers:

This is absolutely shameful on the part of the government. They wrote the rules, but didn’t like it when someone followed them....

When bureaucrats take on 6 year old girls, it’s time to take action, and I would encourage our congressional delegation to do so [Pat Powers, "Your Federal Government at work – attacking a 6 year old for following the rules," Dakota War College, 2013.04.27].

Absolutely shameful? Good grief. The whole kerfuffle revolves around whether Grimm's pencil tracing of one of her dad's photos projected onto her canvas constitutes a violation of the Junior Duck Stamp contest rules. So let's read the rules:

Design entries must be the contestant’s original, hand-illustrated creation and may not be traced or copied from published photographs or other artists’ works. Photographs taken by the student may be used as references in the development of the design. Computers or other mechanical devices may not be used in creating artwork [p. 7].

If using a photo as reference, extensively change the “attitude” of the duck for your creation. For example, if the duck’s head is upright, draw it facing down as if it is drinking water, or turn the angle of the duck’s head. If the duck in the photo is in profile, draw the bird as if it is turning its body at a different angle. If the photo of the duck is in overall sunlight, change and paint the bird with a “sidelight.” If the duck is swimming on blue water in a published photo, paint or draw your own water ripples and make it greenish in color... [p. 17].

If using a reference painting, change it to fit your style and ideas. If you see a painting of a scene of ducks on a log, go find your own log and your own duck reference, change the species and setting, make it your own idea based on the work of another that inspired you [p. 17].

[U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, "2013 Federal Junior Duck Stamp Program and Contest"]

Entrants and their parents and teachers also sign an Authenticity and Liability Statement that includes these words:

I hereby certify that this is my original work and not copied or traced from published photos, magazines, books, illustrations, artists’ published works or other materials protected by copyright laws [Junior Duck Stamp Conservation and Design Contest Entry Form].

A photo taken by another artist is protected by copyright law. (That's why I'm not posting images of Grimm's or Coulter's paintings here, since given the concern of everyone involved here about stickler readings of the rules, I don't care to confuse the issue with a debate over fair use.) If we're going to get all sticklery over the reading of the rules—and when $5,000 in federal prize money is at stake, it's o.k. to be sticklery—the rules make it pretty clear that an entrant can't trace someone else's photo.

The point of the Junior Duck Stamp program is to encourage kids to study and appreciate wildlife and create good art. But when we have a contest with prizes, we need rules to keep things fair. The Fish and Wildlife Service is wisely following those rules. Anyone seeking to make a federal case out of this affair is quacking up the wrong stream.


  1. Barry Smith 2013.04.27

    I feel sorry for the six year old girl. I am sure she doesn't understand what happened. I wonder why her parents didn't understand the rules or at least the spirit of the rules. they seem pretty clear to me. Sad for the girl.

  2. lee schoenbeck 2013.04.27

    doesnt this at least in part turn on the fac that she didn't use a "published" photo. It sounds like she got dinged for a violation of the spirit, not the letter of the rule. Then the Argus reported that last year's winner did the same thing!

  3. Jeff Barth 2013.04.27

    My dad used to "help" me with my homework. I once had a project that included drawing a map of the world and he... Well, it turned out very well for a nine year old.

  4. Paula 2013.04.27

    My daughter actually won the Best of Show for South Dakota Junior Duck Stamp last year and was the runner up this year (runner up to Madison Grimm). Becky has entered this contest for years and has never done a "transfer outline" like several people have commented that artists do all the time (on the Argus story).

    One thing that bothered me after I read a story the Argus did after Madison won at national level, was that the dad Adam Grimm said he had only helped Madison wipe up a paint spill and mix paint colors. Mixing paint colors might not be fair, because that is a characteristic of each duck and she really should have done that on her own, in my opinion. If I can find the link to that statement, I will put a link to it for proof.

  5. Paula 2013.04.27

    "Adam Grimm said he helped her mix some of the paints, talked with her about her work and once used a towel to help her dab up a mess she'd made.

    "The only thing I helped her do was wipe off the one mess-up with a paper towel. She had trouble getting that orange paint off. If people think that crosses the line, that's just silly."

    He said it was typical mentoring that occurs in the art world.

    "That's just normal. It doesn't mean you didn't do the artwork. As long as everything done on that board was by your hand, that's your painting. The things I helped her with wouldn't be crossing any moral line."

  6. Barry Smith 2013.04.27

    lee I see what you are saying. When you look at the press release , it cites the transferring as the reason for the disqualification. On the other hand when you read the rules it would seem that the disqualification should come from her not using her own work to transfer off of. There seems to be a discrepancy there.

  7. caheidelberger Post author | 2013.04.27

    Lee, one part of the rules speaks of published works. But note these key phrases:

    ..."or other artists' works": Dad's photo is another artist's work.
    ..."If using a photo as reference, extensively change the 'attitude' of the duck...": the painting exactly copies the attitude of the duck in the reference photo.

    Interestingly, I read that last year's winner also traced one of Adam Grimm's photos.

  8. joelie hicks 2013.04.27

    Have you seen the movie "my kid could paint that"? Very interesting.

  9. Bill Goehring 2013.04.27

    Seems like composition is an integral part of the creative process for art forms considered to be originals. When the painter takes a photograph and uses it as a reference for composition, light and color, and whatever else, it functions in a way as note-taking and is just a preliminary aide in the artist's process.

    A painter who uses someone else's photograph as a reference in their process is jumping a step by using someone else's access, sense of timing, composition, light and color, not to mention focal length/aperture/shutter speed, and editing prowess.

    I suspect that the reference to "published photos...or...otherwise protected by copyright laws" is more of a legal disclaimer that is intended to shield the USFWS from a published stamp that is later found to infringe the originator's copyright and determined to be a "derivative" of the original, rather than a matter of artistic ethos. As I understand it, the determination of whether the work is a derivative turns on whether the original is "recognizable" in the derivative and not "substantially altered."

    Apart from the legal ramifications, the intent of the rules excluding references of "other artists' works" in the first sentence of the rules pretty clearly lays out the distaste the USFWS has for this contest's entrants short-circuiting their process with someone else's help, I think.

    Furthermore, I don't think there would be anything wrong with the painter using their own photo to trace a pattern onto canvas in pencil or whatever and then finishing by "painting-by-number" over it with reference to the photo, as the entire process is done by the painter.

  10. larry kurtz 2013.04.27

    irrespective of politics, the stamp submitted by ms. grimm is genius: long may she run.

  11. Roger Elgersma 2013.04.27

    She learned to follow the lines not the rules. She also did not show the creativity or originalness that should be required to be a winner. When the competition is intense, and I know it is because my cousin in California has been trying at this contest for decades, one has to remember not to cheat on the ethics just to win. In that case all ball players would be hitting 70 home runs per year.

  12. Nick Nemec 2013.04.27

    I have doubts that the girl even painted the work. She is six after all and the Argus story quotes the parents saying she had been working on it for a year. Cory you have a daughter this age what do you think of the claim that she painted this work even if she traced it? I’ve raised four daughters and currently have a five year old granddaughter, I’ve seen plenty of kindergarten/first grade art work over the years and if this kid did this she is some sort of genius the likes of which only comes along once in a few hundred years.

  13. Taunia 2013.04.27

    Ducks by 6 year olds:

    6 year old "Madison's" duck:

    “I’ve only done a warbler and a canvasback,” Madison said of her previous paintings, of which the warbler was her favorite. “They are pretty, and I like their colors.”

    Perhaps she produce her other paintings or maybe can draw some ducks in front of a crowd.

  14. lee schoenbeck 2013.04.28

    for a non-painter, this has been a very intersting discussion. thank you.

  15. UnionCo 2013.04.28

    “Please do not submit work that has been directly or indirectly copied from any published source.” Madison’s painting was not an outline transfer from a published source.

    I am sadden that people doubt that Madison did the painting herself.. as she did. What do parents have to do? Video tape their children at work? I personally know that some children have an exceptional talent as I have a grandchild with an out-of-the-ordinary eye for detail and color. At a very young age that child produced drawings that neither his parents nor I could even come close to duplicating.

  16. caheidelberger Post author | 2013.04.28

    Sorry, Union: you have to look at all of the rules, not just the one that supports your case. The existence of one rule that does not exclude Action X does not negate the existence of another rule that does. Grimm copied another artist's photo, without changing the attitude of the duck. The rule sheet clearly says, "Don't do that."

    One does not have to doubt the artist's skill to maintain that the artist's action broke the rules. I'd love to be able to reproduce nature that vividly. Young Grimm's skill and attention (able to work for a year on one thing) is impressive, and those skills should only get better and allow her to create more wonderful works of art. Her duck stamp submission is a wonderful work of art. But as a direct copy of a photo, it is not eligible to win this specific contest.

    Taunia, I'd never ask an artist of any age to demonstrate his or her skill in front of a crowd. I tried doing some of my abstract paintings in front of spectators. It didn't work. Maybe some performance artists can produce beautiful canvases in front of an audience, but I find creation requires an attention that forbids distraction from the presence of others.

    Nick, I agree the painting is remarkable for a six year old. Katarzyna does does wonderful drawings, but nothing of that detail or quality. But genius happens.

  17. caheidelberger Post author | 2013.04.28

    As Bill astutely notes, there is a difference between the genius it takes to copy a photo and the genius it takes to create a completely original artwork. Permit me to offer a blog analogy: Pat Powers pastes together a series of long blockquotes from other sources or just post a press release verbatim and call it good blogging. Such posts may serve the useful blog purposes of filtering those gems from the daily media flood and provoking timely conversation. But Pat couldn't enter those copy-posts in a contest for original journalism. Those posts are of a different quality from posts that revolve around original analysis and commentary.

  18. larry kurtz 2013.04.28

    pp did win the fix's contest. when the end is to get the highest number of votes rather than following someone else's rules your analogy fails, cory: genius isn't always the truth.

  19. caheidelberger Post author | 2013.04.28

    (Larry, he did not "win". I've seen no vote count... and no rules sheet from Chris Cilizza.)

  20. larry kurtz 2013.04.28

    Playing by the rules only counts for honorable people, Cory. "Winning isn't everything; it's the only thing." PP has been ignoring the rules for a long, long time and has yet to get caught.

  21. Taunia 2013.04.28

    Cory: what project have you seen any 6 year old work on for more than 10 minutes? Madison's parents would like us to believe she worked on this a year.

    I'm not beating up on Madison. I'm beating up on her parents that perpetuated a lie and continue to cover for it. What's Madison learning? The biggest lie wins?

  22. caheidelberger Post author | 2013.04.28

    Our little one has broken the 10-minute mark on multiple occasions. :-)

    It is not impossible that young Grimm painted this painting. I thus see no need to venture into challenging the truth of what she and her parents have said about her painting ability. The record and the rules are sufficient to make clear that this painting violates the rules of this contest. What young Grimm learns from her disqualification is a very good question... which will only be answered within the Grimm household.

  23. UnionCo 2013.04.28

    What about the others who had used an outline transfer and won in previous years? Hopefully one of them will come forward soon as the "big time" artists are siding with the Grimm family.

  24. caheidelberger Post author | 2013.04.28

    What about them? Past contests are over and done. Violations not caught in the past don't mean we shouldn't address violations caught in the present.

  25. WayneB 2013.04.29

    This is true, Cory, but it sounds as though the outline transfers were known in the past, and nothing was done. It would be helpful for the committee to explain why the past incidences didn't violate the rules, but this contestant did. Otherwise it looks arbitrary & capricious to the casual observer.

  26. Pat Russell 2013.04.29

    Many famous historic artists painted the apples and pears and bowls in still lifes for years before "getting it right." Even Monet couldn't have painted water or a duck's feathering this perfect at that age. Ask her art teacher if she could have accomplished such a work. I suspect Daddy was coaching her and mixing paints every step of the way.

  27. caheidelberger Post author | 2013.04.29

    Sure, Wayne, if the rules have been poorly enforced in the past, that's a problem, and someone should answer for that. But does poor past enforcement justify continued poor enforcement?

  28. db 2013.04.29

    Only issue is that she didn't follow the rules, she traced the drawing - and the skepticism around her ability to draw was well-founded, she traced over a photo. Sorry this was not a hand-drawn piece, it was traced. By the rules she had the right to "use" this image as a reference source but tracing is prohibited. The rules are the rules and the DSO has an obligation to uphold the integrity of the contest.

    Watch this video (link below) - She admits she drew right over the picture to transfer it - that's not hand-drawing as required - it is tracing which is prohibited. The DSO isn't attacking her they are making sure all the other participants who followed the rules are not slighted. The fact that last years participant broke the rules also only means she too should be disqualified.

    Here's just one of the many related excerpts from the rules that address this issue: Design entries must be the contestant’s original, hand-illustrated creation and may not be traced or copied from published photographs or other artists’ works. Photographs taken by the student may be used as references in the development of the design.

    1. Design entries must be the contestant’s original, hand-illustrated creation (sorry this was traced - it's not hand drawn, confirmed in the video)

    and (meaning additionally)

    2. they can't be traced from published photographs, (YES agreed the provided photograph wasn't published) but nothing here allows her to trace unpublished images - the requirement that this be hand drawn is still a rule.

    or (meaning alternatively)

    3. other artists works. so - neither published photographs or "other artists works" can be traced. it wasn't published but it was an "other artists work". Even if you want to argue that it is something "other" then an "other artists work" you still have no case for "tracing it" hand-drawn is still a requirement.

    4. Photographs taken by the student may be used as references in the development of the design. (Not even a students OWN photos can be traced).

    This is just one instance - the DSO goes out of it's way to encourage, inspire and make it clear tracing is not aloud. It's a clear violation of the rules. The DSO did the right thing.

  29. WayneB 2013.04.29


    That's an interesting conundrum. Our courts have established a law only intermittently enforced cannot stand. An organization which intermittently enforces its own rules loses much credibility. Were they right to enforce their rules? Yup. But they were wrong in deciding not to enforce their rules last year.

    If Lance Armstrong can have his Tour de France medals stripped, then last year's Jr. Duck Stamp winner can have his prize taken away too. Fair's fair & all that.

  30. db daniel brevick 2013.04.29

    hey wayne -
    if you are referring to last years winner tracing also - it was just revealed 2-3 days ago. i have already written a letter encouraging the DSO to be fair and to be consistent and to also disqualify her and revoke the win. everyone signs a Authenticity and Liability Statement saying they didn't trace. this person was also being mentored by Grimm and also used one of his photos. just an FYI - about 5-7 years ago both the 1st and then the 2nd place winners were disqualified for plagiarism. in the same year - it was not as big a controversy and actually it was a big misunderstanding - sort of an unfortunate situation.

  31. Bob D. 2013.04.30

    Remember Folks, the purpose of the art program in schools is to teach art. IF a youngster had a photographic memory, would it be 'tracing' for them to recall images and paint them? The 'help' downstream is the real issue here. Can a parent, who may also be an accomplished artist or scientist help educate their child?? Move On, please.
    Let's move forward with some stronger rules, folks, but l feel "forward" is the way to go.... sooner the better!!

  32. Freiday 2013.04.30

    I have been teaching art for 30 years. A prodigy at the age of six would "normally" be super creative with imagery, color, and content- not detail.
    This photo-realism stuff demands a more mature development of brain and fine motor skills. I seriously doubt that a six year old did this painting.
    I am discouraged with all of this controversy as I have had students participate in this contest for many years- merely for the fun of painting and the enjoyment of the outdoors.

  33. caheidelberger Post author | 2013.05.01

    Indeed, we could do without the controversy. According to the rules, there should be none. By signing the Authenticity and Liability Statement, entrants and parents acknowledge that they "further understand that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has the exclusive right to disqualify any entry whose authenticity is questionable." If entrants don't like the Duck Stamp Office's authority over its own contest, the aspiring artists can recognition and sales in many other venues.

  34. Travis Johnston 2013.05.01

    It seems like the Grimm family created their own problem by releasing video of Madison working on her paintings & then cast more doubt by adding in interviews that the dad "cleaned up a mess" & mixed colors for her. Maybe they didn't see the issue right away but once they did, they clammed up & didn't reveal any more incriminating "helping" he did with his daughter's painting. Mixing colors is a huge deal & the argument has been made that he was just being more economical by not buying premixed paints for her. That hardly holds up because who's to say what she would pick if you'd lay out 200 different tubes of paint in front of her. The girl might be an artistic genius but the more likely situation is that she did technically paint it but with the hovering guidance of her her former duck stamp winner dad coaching her every step of the way.

  35. UnionCo 2013.05.01

    From Mr. Grimm: “I just wanted to make sure everyone saw this. It completely exonerates Madison of any wrong doing. PLEASE SHARE to help spread the word and remove this black cloud over her entirely legitimate win. THANKS!”
    I, Robert C. Lesino was the Chief, Federal Duck Stamp Program, U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service, U.S. Department of ...Interior from 1993 to 2001. During this period I expanded the Federal Junior Duck Stamp Program from five participating states to all fifty states and the U.S. Territories. Increased stamp sales and distribution for both the adult and junior stamps.
    I also, updated and rewrote the Federal Duck Stamp art contest entry rules and Junior Duck Stamp art contest rules in conjunction with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service/Department of the Interior’s legal counsel. The proposed changes in rules were published in the Federal Register for public comment. I created a series of national artist training workshops to facilitate artist’s understanding of the Federal Duck Stamp contest rules and what design and art concepts and processes could be used to make an acceptable and legal entry. My staff and I greatly increased interest and understanding of how to compete in this unique American art competition.
    I recently read in the media with some shock and dismay the controversy over the 2013 Federal Junior Duck Stamp contest entry as submitted by six year old Madison Grimm, of South Dakota. I noted with interest the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s unclear reasons for disqualifying the entry after publicly pronouncing it the national junior winner as selected by the panel of judges.
    The graphite transfer process was never a violation of the rules as long as the source material was not from previously published, copyrighted or protected materials. It appears the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service did not explain how it investigated this fact, nor explain the facts of their findings based on the contest rules. An explanation would be welcomed. As I understand the entry from talking with Madison’s father, Adam Grimm, Madison’s source material was from an unpublished photo Adam took and owned.

    Corey, I will e-mail a copy of the complete letter to you. And let’s put to rest the idea that Madison did not do the painting herself as SHE DID. I have a grandson that was complimented by the Chair of the Art Department of USD for his exceptional drawings at age 8, but he began exhibiting his talent several years earlier.

  36. larry kurtz 2013.05.01

    Duck habitat is so badly degraded in South Dakota, a girl and her father cheating seems so...conservative.

  37. barry freed 2013.05.01

    As an artist and instructor, a 6 year old is fully capable of "realistic rendering". In the end, that painting, though very impressive, is just a bunch of curved lines, straight lines, and colors that anyone can reproduce with the aid of a competent instructor, and then on their own.
    Unfortunately, our schools have very poor art programs and teachers that avoid realism for fear of failure in front of their students. They stick to crafts type art that can't be judged. Failure is one way we grow, but the public schools are so full of nepotism and politics, risk and failure are non-existent in an area of study that should be THE tool for teaching the skills of overcoming failure.

  38. Daniel Brevick 2013.05.01

    Paula - I agree and I'm also shocked that Adam was helping her with the painting itself. Mixing the paint for her. Cleaning up a mess on the painting she couldn't fix herself. I think those who have been posting on this issue are right. And it's really sad that the DSO didn't include that as part of the their decision to disqualify her. At this point I'm fearful that the rules will be changed to accommodate those who insist that tracing is right. And now another winner has come forward to say she traced and transferred from a photo too, this is beginning to spiral out of control.

    This program was never about who wins or developing wildlife artists, or getting the best looking piece - it's an educational program. If the DSO doesn't hold their ground about the tracing rule I really think it would be better to just shut the whole thing down. Honestly - I think that's where we are heading.

    If tracing is OK then of course it's the thing to do (if this is only about getting the best looking painting and not about learning and gaining knowledge) - especially for the younger kids who can't draw - to quote Madison Grimm "I kind of have to use this to transfer it because there is no way I could have free-handed all those feathers". With dad mixing her colors and interceding to fix any mishaps - she's a real force in the competition.

    Fairness issues are a major part of why I do what I do (my life outside of this debate). To me FAIRNESS supersedes even the educational benefits. If one person can trace (now we have had three FIRST PLACE winners who have admitted to tracing) then it needs to be an option for everyone. It needs to be taught in the curriculum - "here's how you do it kids". I'd rather see the educational value of the program DROP, then for some kids to have an advantage over others.

    Additionally, while I really support the DSO for disqualifying her painting, they CAN NOT apply this standard to her and not to the other two who have admitted breaking the same rule. They just can't do that, it's not fair, it can't be done. If the other two don't get their titles stripped from them - they have to restore Madison's win. The FAIRNESS issue supersedes the rule infraction. This is the one and only argument that has merit relative to restoring her win and I will be happy to lead the charge to restore her win if the DSO treats her unfairly. THIS CAN'T BE ALOUD. They will lose my support entirely if they treat her differently than the others.

    But should they restore her win - we have another major issue to address. This is what makes me feel we are on the fringe of the entire program being shut down. Adam helped her with the painting. If this is OK, then to be fair, that option has to extend to all students. All art teachers and parents should be allowed to help their kids. How do we address this? Do the rules change and now it's OK for parents and teachers to mix the paint? Do the instructions now say "the paintings need to be done by the child except that art teachers can now mix the color for the students. Additionally should your student have a mishap it's acceptable for you to intervene." Adam has really messed things up. I think it's possible to bring equity relative to the tracing issue (sacrificing the educational value) - but to fix what he did by helping Madison - how do we fix that?

    Paula - people are now saying the new winner painted the bill and legs orange and they should be pink. They say that makes this a different species and thus the piece should be disqualified. But what if the parent or art teacher didn't realize that it was OK for them to mix the color? Who would have ever thought that it was OK to have an adult mixing the paint - any adult let alone a famous duck stamp artist? But it was OK for Adam to do it - he said it was normal mentoring (I disagree with this). Accurate color is a critical element to success in this contest. So if Madison's painting is reinstated as the winner we now have a fairness issue that will be very hard to accommodate. I think the program will be shut down. Without tracing, without Adam mixing the colors and fixing the mishap this painting would have been very different - it would not have won.

    At this point the spirit and letter of the rules have been compromised as well as the purpose of the entire program.

    It's a sad day for the JR Duck Stamp program.

  39. Paula 2013.05.01

    Travis Johnston, you hit the nail on the head! Thank you for putting into the perfect words what I could not get through to the Grimm's support team. I don't know if the mixing of the paints and the wiping up of the spills was even made aware to anyone until AFTER the SD Junior Duck Stamp contest, so it is highly unlikely the national level was aware of it either. When you turn your contest paperwork entry in, you sign it saying you did the work yourself. Obviously this rule was violated in this SD entry.

  40. larry kurtz 2013.05.01

    I was the first to tweet that Ms. Grimm had won the contest as a follower of the Service: it was then picked up by those in print who follow me.

    Art and Wildlife Collide: 2013 Federal Duck Stamp Contest to be Held Sept. 27 and 28 in Northwestern Ohio:

  41. Freiday 2013.05.01

    Barry, I don'y teach any crafts in my public school art room. And furthermore, I am a very accomplished artist. I have exhibited at the Washington Pavilion and the SD Art Museum to name a few. I think you may be "clumping" we art teachers a bit unfairly... I teach my students a lot of perspective and proportion and do so right in front of them- without ANY fear of failure!!! PS. Becky Froehlich and Libby Andresan, both duck stamp winners, are students of mine.

  42. Paula 2013.05.01

    Absolutely agree with everything you said Daniel...I've been thinking about this all day at work. This has pretty much ruined the "Junior" Duck Stamp Program for all. Who ever thought that kids were allowed to use professional techniques like tracing and projecting images, as long as they are not copyrighted? South Dakota has worked very hard in the past several years to increase the number of kids entering this contest. It gets bigger every year; and I know, because my kids have been involved the past eight years. I haven't noticed kids in the K-5 grades using much beyond colored pencils, crayons, or markers in their entries and they were freehand drawings. I can't remember even seeing any Best of Shows that seemed questionable of being traced. Can you image now? What kids are going to want to enter now, going up against Madison Grimm knowing her professional-artist father Adam thinks it's okay to coach her and mix paints for her.

    This is a KID'S competition. I have no idea why the person who wrote the rules now comes out and says that he intended for tracing to be allowed. As I said earlier, I feel Madison and Adam violated the rules by this artwork not being totally done by Madison. The ship has already sailed for Becky's runner-up entry to go onto finals-that's part of life. But this is a really disappointing ending to her duck stamp career-this contest is what got her interested in art, which is what she is pursuing in college.

  43. Becky Froehlich 2013.05.01

    I have great memories of participating in this contest over the years. And this last year was great, too, until this whole disqualification mess got started.

    I've been brought into this mess on other sites and accused of things I'd never do by people who don't know me - who've never even met me - over this. This is not what the contest is about. That's what's disappointing. I just want this whole thing to work out with everyone getting what they want with minimum damage.

    Whether or not people want to argue if Madison's painting was legitimate, it's horrible for a 6-year-old to see such vitriol surrounding her work. I understand why people feel angry if they think they've been wronged. But the people out there crusading for her to get her prize back have gone about it in the least diplomatic way possible. Both the federal and state duck stamp programs are full of kind and professional administrators, and here they've been accused of being immoral, cheats, prejudiced, you name it. It isn't fair to the people who care most about the contest - the ones who run it - to be treated badly either. People should get a say if they think they've been treated unfairly, but the way everyone has gone about might jeoparde the contest.

    What the duck stamp contest does for conservation, especially for making the next generation care about it, is important. It made me care in a way I never had before. The message is completely getting lost here, and the nastiness and bad publicity might discourage people from entering. As someone who cares about the contest, that's what really worries me, not mincing over who traces or who wipes spills or who does this or that.

  44. Becky Froehlich 2013.05.01

    ah, I forgot - if you haven't encountered the mean-spiritedness I was talking about, look at the public Federal Junior Duck Stamp Facebook page or some of the comments on the Argus Leader article.

  45. caheidelberger Post author | 2013.05.01

    Becky, you continue to impress me with your thoughtfulness, and now with grace under fire. There should be no fire here, certainly against Madison or Becky or any of the students who enter this contest. In any game, there are rules. When we play, we follow them. When someone breaks the rules, we enforce them. We acknowledge our mistakes, learn from them, and move on. There's no need for people to turn that into a personal fight that overshadows the real purpose of the competition, which you, Becky, articulate perfectly.

  46. Daniel Brevick 2013.05.01

    Becky - Paige and I with Judie Miller last night - chated with her and brought her up to speed with where things were. Judie was the state cooerdinator for Minnesota. She put so much passion, time an effort into the JR Duck Stamp Program - the award ceremonies were almost too much - she would get Mayors, Senators, Governors to come to speak, musicians, magicians and jugglers to perform. One time the was an ice-sculpture - another carved fruit - usually a bag lunch and always prizes for the kids. Often times in large fancy banquet halls. She was able to get almost everything donated. Every kid not only got the ribbon but a bag full of sketch pads, pencil and paint. But not just any paint . . . the paint sets would always match the medium the kids worked in. I think retiring from her post with the Fish and Wildlife service was quite difficult. Here are her thoughts on the situation.


    The Heart of the Matter
    By Judie Miller
    May 1, 2013
    I sit here in my writing studio, better known as my wildlife pond as I am surrounded by duck paintings by Federal Duck Stamp Winners, Joe Hautman, David Maas, and Junior Duck Stamp winner, Becky Latham. Atop my desk sits an array of ducks all gifts given to me in the days in which I was the Minnesota Junior Duck Stamp Coordinator. Each carries many years of fond memories of my years of trying to create the best Junior Duck Stamp Program I could possibly manage for our state of Minnesota. I tried to establish a program that recognized and promoted the talents of our youngsters while always recognizing their individual valuable contributions no matter how advanced or not so perfect their artistic technique. I felt that if we could nurture a child’s curiosity about wildlife while supporting and finding ways to promote his/her healthy self-esteem, we as a society would gain endless rewards. Education was our guideline.
    I find myself drawn to the current controversy surrounding the 2013 Junior Duck Stamp Competition which resulted in the declared national winner, Madison Grimm being disqualified. I’ve read the arguments on both sides of the issue and I think most of the arguments miss what I deem to be “the heart of the matter”. Yes, it is important to keep in mind the copyright issues and each entrant’s references should be original.
    However, I think what is missing from the arguments is the fact that the Junior Duck Stamp Program has as its primary goal, education. The idea behind the program is for children to learn the importance of wildlife especially waterfowl. It is important for children to study their habitat, their anatomy, and to learn that ducks play an important role in our environment. A child needs to know the difference between a puddle duck and a diving duck; which ones lives along the sea coast and which prefers the midland wetlands; which are the primary feathers and which are the secondary; and what advantages of the various kinds of duck bills, as well as many other characteristics particular to a species.
    Each year the student dedicates a year to his/her study of wildlife increasing his/her knowledge as each year passes by. The student’s rendition of his/her Junior Duck Stamp Painting is to be the result of that year’s knowledge. As a child moves into the pictorial phase of his/her study, the size of the duck, and the placement of the duck on paper are all points of study. Later the child learns the correct habitat for his/her chosen species and in time, may detail the feathers or other details. In my opinion, tracing a picture by graphite does not demonstrate the child’s learning. While it may show an expertise in using crayons, colored pencil, water colors, or oils to enhance the outline, it is does not demonstrate that the child has accomplished the goal of the Junior Duck Stamp Program. Madison Grimm’s painting is stunning but in my opinion it remains outside the goals of the Junior Duck Stamp Program as this youngster has yet to learn the basics of depicting a duck on paper without the aid of a pattern. Madison is a youngster imbued with a lot of talent and has a bright future as an artist. She just needs to start her journey at the beginning. I think this controversy can play a positive role in clarifying the goals of the Junior Duck Stamp Program. It’s not just about painting a pretty picture; it’s about keeping the focus on the goal of the program: a student’s demonstration of his/her mastery of waterfowl study through the rendition of an original painting.

  47. caheidelberger Post author | 2013.05.01

    Dan, can you tell me where Miller's essay was originally published? Can someone also get me a source on Lesino's statement?

    So when we have Miller contesting Grimm's friend Lesino's interpretation of the rules, it's time to get out Occam's razor. Folks opposed to the disqualification are having to work much harder to create interpretations of the rules that fit their case than are the folks who look at lines like, "extensively change the attitude...," see the attitude on the canvas not changed, and reach the simple conclusion that the painting in question broke that rule.

  48. Daniel Brevick 2013.05.02


  49. Becky Froehlich 2013.05.02

    Mr. Heidelberger - Thank you. But it seems that even learning from mistakes and trying again might not be as easy as it should be. The issue for the Grimms even if they do get the prize back, it seems, is entering in contests in later years. I believe she can still technically enter next year even if disqualified one year before, but that doesn't mean it'll be baskets of roses. She probably still has a good chance of getting prizes when she's judged, because the judging process doesn't allow someone to see a name on a picture as they judge it - but people have burned a lot of bridges now. I'm sure many of the administrators are hurt by the accusations, and the students that consistently enter year after year are seeing this behavior and probably not too impressed with it. Is Madison still going to have a fair chance? Probably, but she's probably not going to be treated like a 6-year-old should by the duck stamp community. That's unfair to her, and it has nothing to do with her actions. If she had just broken the rules, people would have forgiven it. But this vindictive attitude that people - not Madison! - are bringing towards others is going to affect her. And that's hurting the contest.

    Mr. Brevik - I have seen the same professionalism and dedication from the people at the South Dakota Junior Duck Stamp contest as well. I've been treated very well by them and received goodies along with a ribbon every year. They are really dedicated. They really want to help people learn about conservation. Last year they brought an artist in to teach, and this year we had someone who flies planes to chart ducks over North America come and give a presentation at the awards ceremony, for example.
    I am quite sure that these decisions were not made because the judges or administrators are resentful of her age, or prejudiced, etc. etc, which has been implied. They do what they do in good faith.

  50. UnionCo 2013.05.02

    The “new” first and second place winners (according to art experts) should be disqualified. The first place winner has entered a painting of farm geese which is NOT an eligible species, and the second place winner entered a picture of a “common golden eye” which has been declared plagiarized.

  51. Daniel Brevick 2013.05.02

    The letter from Bob

    First - the letter is confusing as to authorship and the proper citation/credit. In Bob's title he claims sole authorship of the Junior and Federal Duck Stamp Rules. In fact he goes so far as to put this in capital letters.


    But as you read through the letter he seems to then concede that he may not be the sole author? First he says it's done in "conjunction with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service/Department of the Interior’s legal counsel" and then later backs down entirely seemingly admitting to being just "one of the authors". To claim sole authorship of something a person only co-authored is itself a copyright violation. This raises suspicions around Bob's motives. Why would he claim complete authorship for a document for which he was only a contributor? The headline Bob offered delivers a quick powerful impression that he is the ONLY ONE to speak of it's intent regarding rules for which he is the sole author. Perhaps Bob is the sole author and the comments in the content are in error or perhaps the headline was Bob's effort to make the document, his role in it's creation and THUS his comment regarding intent appear to be more substantial then it actually is. Either he is intentionally trying to deceive us into thinking he is the sole authority - or the content isn't accurate - it's a big problem either way.

    Worse still perhaps the title was not Bob's at all. Perhaps Adam Grimm ADDED it? Someone said - spin, spin, spin away - and if this was a title provided by Adam - that's exactly what we have here. If Adam created the title to add SPIN to the impact that's WRONG and also it's a copyright violation of the coauthors work. So please can someone provide clarity concerning the actual authorship and who it is that is trying to SPIN this? AND please list the coauthors. It's required by law and vitally important in this context.

    This is also critical as it appears perhaps the coauthors might be the DSO's legal counsel, though Bob describes the collaboration as "in conjunction with". So then was the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service/Department of the Interior’s legal counsel the coauthor? I ask because the current legal counsel disagrees COMPLETELY with Bob's recollection as to intent as evidenced in the ruling for disqualification. Both Bob's recollection in the matter and the relevancy for him to speak have to also be questioned since he has not worked in this agency for more then 12 years. Also without the benefit of knowing who the coauthor/s is/are - it's possible that he didn't even author the legal portions that have relevance in this discussion. Why hide the coauthor's name? When it is so relevant to the discussion and also a legal requirement?

    Additionally he claims to have expanded the Junior Duck Stamp Program, taking it from 5 to 50 states. I had been told that it was Terry Bell who did this, in fact it was Bob who told me. I'm not sure why he is now taking all the credit - except to again create larger impact as to his assertion concerning intent on the rules.

    Bob's letter also FAILS to respond to other key issues. This again causes doubt as to motive for writing the letter. In fact his entire response addresses only the publishing question. So since we have Bob's ear in the matter I'd like to ask a few more questions. Hopefully we can get the names of the coauthors and they can weigh in also.

    Bob - the brochure / rules BULLET POINT criteria concerning aesthetics and as you know the student signs to certify that this is their original work.

    Can you please review and comment regarding this?

    • Form: Is the waterfowl anatomically accurate?
    ----Given she traced an "other artists work" (Rules Violation) was the accuracy depicted in the painting really her original work? or that of her fathers as she traced his photo?

    • Colors: Are the colors appropriate to the selected species and surrounding habitat?
    ----Given her father has admitted to mixing the paint for her can it still be certified that the colors represent her work and not that of her fathers? since he mixed the paint - he created the colors, she did not - was this also ok in your original intent?

    • Shape: Is the design suited to a horizontal, rectangular stamp shape?
    • Clarity of Visual Symbolism: Does the illustration communicate the purpose of the stamp and can the elements of the illustration be easily identified?
    • Spatial Divisions: Are there negative and positive areas within the illustration and do they work together?

    As to Shape, Clarity and Spatial Division -
    ----Given that she copied and traced or her fathers work exactly can you really certify this is her design and not merely a copy of her fathers work? As you know the rules require you modify the photos extensively.

    Bob given that the anatomically accuracy, color, shape, clarity, spatial division (everything critical in creating a beautiful design) were her father works and that the one thing left for her to actually do - the execution of painting - she messed up on and he fixed, can you really certify that this is entirely her original work? Was all this allowed in your original intent?

  52. caheidelberger Post author | 2013.05.02

    Well... that's unexpected. The difference now is that no one is going to fight really hard to reverse this decision.

  53. grudznick 2013.05.02

    Win is tainted. She'll never recover and give up art to focus on the more practical skills of math and science.

  54. daniel brevick 2013.05.02

    The Service disqualified the artwork last week. Since that time, the Service has continued to evaluate its decision and has decided to reinstate the original winner.

    ***This is the reason it was over-turned??? WOW! REALLY?***

    The Service’s decision to reinstate Grimm’s work was made in recognition of the fact that her work was judged the winner during a fair and open public contest.

    So the attorneys didn't change their minds - none of the debate had an effect - it's just that after considering this for a full week the DSO realized that the contest was conducted fairly? - OK - but not. I really believe this is the last JR Duck Stamp Contest. So if the conducting of the contest had not been fair??? They would not have over-turned this??? WOW...

  55. Travis Johnston 2013.05.03

    What we should all take away from this is ethics should always be observed unless you're personally inconvenienced.

  56. caheidelberger Post author | 2013.05.03

    Or that throwing a tantrum works?

  57. Travis Johnston 2013.05.03

    That too & don't forget getting all weepy on local television.

  58. Travis Johnston 2013.05.19

    Did anyone see what the father, Adam Grimm, posted on Facebook?

    After Madison's reinstatement as the rightful Junior Duck Stamp winner, there has been some mischaracterization as to the reasons why she was reinstated... not just from the duck stamp office but by several media outlets as well. Here is the truth.

    I WANT TO BE VERY CLEAR, the reason they reinstated Madison is because they were entirely in the wrong and I had more than enough evidence to prove it (even legally if needed) and I also had the ear of major national media outlets.

    There was no confusion. Madison followed ALL of the contest rules and was fairly selected the winner by a panel of 5 judges.
    Let me say that again, the contest rules are fine. They've always been fine and they are NOT confusing so long as you don't have an issue with the English language or a comprehension problem.

    The Duck Stamp office conspired to disqualify Madison from the moment she won (and never even called her following the initial online announcement at the contest) because it didn't sit well with some people (including some in the duck stamp office) for two reasons. One because Madison is 6, and two because she's my daughter.

    I care about the duck stamp program, but I care more about my children and our reputation. The duck stamp office's inexperienced staff completely disregarded my attempts to correct their misinterpretation of the contest rules, when they called to inform us of their decision to disqualify Madison. Following the phone call, they immediately sent out a National Press release announcing the disqualification. The duck stamp office's incompetent actions forced us into the situation of having to take a stand. Failure to do so would basically be an admission of some level of wrong doing.

    I informed Dan Ashe (Director of the USFWS) that if they didn't fix their actions, I would fix it my self by publicly humiliating them and releasing all of the evidence... and also taking legal action if necessary. Their illegitimate actions resulted in defamation of character. Not just of Madison but also indirectly of myself and many of the top artists in the country by wrongfully labeling a normal part of the artistic process as "against the rules". As I said before, we had no other choice but to take a stand.

    The reason the duck stamp office gave for Madison's reinstatement was -
    "The Service’s decision to reinstate Grimm’s work was made in
    recognition of the fact that her work was judged the winner during a
    fair and open public contest".

    This was NOT the reason Madison was reinstated.
    I know it might come as a shock to some that the government isn't always honest and forthcoming, and this time was no exception.

    The duck stamp office didn't want to admit to their numerous faults and instead sought to cover them up. Make no mistake their faults were calculated, malicious, and discriminatory and it was provable. I'm not surprised they would try to keep it from being known.

    Despite our already having enough evidence to prove the above charges, I informed Dan Ashe that based on the suggestion of one of the top duck stamp artists of all time, we would also be invoking a freedom of information act in order to acquire further evidence.

    Upon realizing the misinterpretation of their own rules, the duck stamp office twisted it to say that Madison violated the "spirit" of the rules. This was apparently their attempt to disregard the actual rules and interpret their meaning to be whatever they wanted them to be to fit their current desires. It's clear that they were just grasping at straws at this point. I can say beyond a shadow of a doubt that Madison made zero mistakes in regards to the rules and they knew it. In fact, I think they knew that there were no grounds for disqualifying Madison and so they trumped up this bogus charge.
    As one artist who spoke to Laurie Shaffer told me following the disqualification, "it's like they're just trying to railroad her".

    If the duck stamp office's actions were just, and their reasons for the initial disqualification were valid... or even just a mistake, then why were they ducking reporters' calls and questions for days... and why is there suddenly a new Junior Duck Stamp Coordinator?

  59. Travis Johnston 2013.05.19

    For someone who is an extreme anti-government conservative, he & is family sure do know how to make lucrative careers by entering these state & federal art contests. It must be difficult to call the government names at the very same time you're suckling at their teat.

  60. caheidelberger Post author | 2013.05.19

    Wow: some people just don't know when to quit. Grimm's continued tirade suggests he's more interested in keeping this issue alive as anti-government propaganda. He got what he wanted with his Washington DC lawyer threatening legal action; what's left to gain? Why keep fighting?

  61. Travis Johnston 2013.05.19

    Well, I suppose it's a way to promote his David & Goliath "struggle" against the big, bad Feds while simultaneously slowly undermine his career with everyone else who doesn't share his views. Reading through the comments on Fox News site & the NY Daily News, it's apparent that a lot of people think there was some cheating involved on his end. It should be settled now but the nastiness from the peanut gallery that are his core supporters do nothing to help him in the first place but his own recent tirade really lowered my opinion of him even more. He sure feels comfortable sharing his opinion on a host of issues but really can't take it for a second when others are critical of his actions. It's fine if you have an viewpoint you must share but don't be a puss if things are turned around on you once you've invited the public into the matter by contacting the media.

  62. Rebecca Froehlich 2013.05.20

    Goodbye, conservation awareness and development of artistic skill, and hello, "Washington DC lawyers" and senators. Good thing it's my last year, because the contest - and its aims - are never going to be the same. The Grimms and their band of friends/supporters should stop. Then again, how much more can they do to defame the contest at this point? Talk about biting the hand that feeds you.

    Now that they've gotten what they wanted, they are STILL playing victims all over Facebook, demanding public apologies and being "sore winners", I guess you could say. They got what they wanted, so they have no excuse to continue this. I no longer have sympathy. You know who I do feel sorry for? Peter Coulter, the national runner-up who had $5000 for college for a matter of days before it was taken away and given back to the Grimms. This whole thing has been handled horribly, and the longer they keep this going, the less easy it is to forgive. To say the least, this is disappointing.

  63. daniel brevick 2013.05.26

    On good authority - the DSO found out about the decision when the rest of us did. They did NOT make the call. It came from above. I've requested full disclosure VIA the FOIA - and was granted expedited processing. I'll let you know what happened when I receive the documents. The only one hurting Adams reputation is Adam.

  64. caheidelberger Post author | 2013.05.26

    Daniel, I'd love to see whatever docs you get from your FOIA. Do keep us posted!

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