In 1926 Birger Sandzén initiated the Midwest Art Contest to accompany the annual Midwest Art Exhibition at Lindsborg’s Bethany College. Art teachers in grade schools were encouraged to submit student work, and winners received Sandzén lithographs. A top award included a one-year scholarship to Bethany, making the contest a recruiting tool for the Bethany art department.
Many contest winners went on to work as art teachers and to send their pupils’ art to the competition. While attending Colorado Springs High School, Annie Lee Ross (1909-1978) had examples of her work sent to Lindsborg in 1927 and 1928. She won a second prize and half-year scholarship to Bethany. After graduating, Ross remained in Kansas, first teaching in Marion and then Concordia. She submitted student art to the contest regularly over the next decade.
Kansan Charles Rogers (1911-1987) had his prize-winning work submitted from Great Bend High School in 1929 and 1930 and began attending Bethany College in fall 1938. When Sandzén retired in 1946 Rogers was hired to replace him as painting professor. Rogers continued to supervise the Midwest Art Contest during his teaching tenure.