The Big River Art Contest, which began in 1998, has engaged over 8,000 4th-6th grade students with 218 selected as winners. On October 27, sixteen artists were recognized as winners of the 2011 Big River Art Contest. Almost 600 students entered the 2011 contest coordinated by the Mississippi National River and Recreation Area. Art created by students depicts the beauty and life of the Mississippi River as well as the learning that takes place on the park coordinated riverboat field trips Big River Journey and Journey to the Falls.
Although a contest, the Big River Art contest serves multiple purposes. The artwork reinforces learning and educational concepts that that takes place on river-based education programs, serves as an evaluation tool for these educational programs and allows students to succeed who might not be successful in traditional educational areas. The art is displayed for a year at the partner location of the Mississippi River Visitor Center then tours throughout the Twin City metropolitan area which has population of 3 million. The art functions as an educational tool for the general public.