Colorado State Fair Competition Names An Unlikely Winner: AI-Made Artwork

An artwork snagging first place in a Colorado State Fair competition saw backlash this week after the winning artist revealed it was generated by artificial intelligence.

Jason Allen, president of gaming company Incarnate Games, and his AI-created submission received the top prize in the event’s digital art category Monday, Vice reported.

The piece, titled “Theatre D’Opera Spatial,” inspired heated debate online over the use of such techniques.

An AI-generated artwork from Jason Allen won first place in a competition at the Colorado State Fair this summer.
An AI-generated artwork from Jason Allen won first place in a competition at the Colorado State Fair this summer.

Colorado State Fair

“This is so gross,” wrote one Twitter user. “I can see how ai art can be beneficial, but claiming you’re an artist by generating one? Absolutely not.”

“I knew 90% of artists were cooked when I saw how creative and striking some of those AI art pieces were,” tweeted another. “Grim truth is that AI will be better and faster than humans at a large number of mental tasks and you should be planning for how to adjust to that now.”

Allen said he had sifted through hundreds of images he made with the AI program Midjourney before entering his three favorites, including the eventual winner, into the competition.

Speaking to The Pueblo Chieftain, judges for the event said they didn’t know his art was AI-generated — a technique that isn’t addressed in the event’s submission guidelines — but added that it wouldn’t have affected their decision. The artist told the local newspaper that he had in fact disclosed the use of AI.

Allen said he was initially skeptical about the artistic use of artificial intelligence but soon became obsessed with Midjourney, according to Colorado Springs newspaper The Gazette.

“Being able to watch my imagination unfold on the screen before me is fascinating. It’s actually addictive,” he told the outlet.

He said he didn’t expect the piece to receive viral attention and likened the concerns about AI to past fears that cameras would replace portrait artists.

“As time went on, people began to accept the technology, and eventually they realized there was room for both,” the artist told The Gazette.

Allen did not immediately respond to HuffPost’s request for comment.

Fairgoers check out Allen's winning artwork in Pueblo, Colorado.
Fairgoers check out Allen’s winning artwork in Pueblo, Colorado.

Colorado State Fair

Olga Robak, communications director for the Colorado Department of Agriculture, told HuffPost that the 150-year-old fair is delighted to be “part of the discussion” over what constitutes art.

“We evolve every year,” Robak said. “We review those competition requirements every year and so this will likely lead to an internal discussion of whether this should have its own category, how it should be categorized and how people should label and judge this new type of art using new technology.”

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