Some Americans may be surprised to learn that Congress is a longtime patron of the arts. One of my favorite District services has been providing a platform for young Americans’ artistic talents since 1982: the High School Congressional Art Competition.
Every year, high school students across Texas 12 are invited to participate in the Congressional Art Competition, and the artwork of one winning student is selected to represent our District. Each year, both a Republican and Democratic Member of the House serve as Co-Chairs of the Art Competition, an event that is truly bipartisan and one of the highlights of the Congressional calendar. Generations of American high school students—about 650,000 total—have participated in this almost 40-year tradition.
Each Congressional District’s winning artwork is featured on the House of Representatives’ website and is displayed for a year in the corridor connecting the U.S. Capitol and the House office buildings—a walkway through which Members of Congress, their staff, and thousands of tourists from around the world travel every day. District winners are also entered in the nationwide competition for a full scholarship to the prestigious Savannah College of Art and Design!
Last year’s first-place winner from the District competition, Ruhani Ahluwalia, paints in between her studies at Fort Worth’s Harmony High School, as well as her work as a cancer researcher with the University of North Texas Health Science Center! First-place winners from each District’s Art Competition receive round-trip plane tickets to attend a reception in Washington, D.C., and I was so pleased to meet with Ruhani last year in Washington.
The second-place winner’s artwork will also make it to the Capitol, where it will hang in my Washington Office for a year. Pieces winning third place and “Congresswoman’s Choice” are displayed in my District Office, where other elected officials, distinguished guests, and members of our community can admire the talent of our Texas 12 students.
This year, the coronavirus pandemic is forcing Congress to get creative with how we conduct business, and the Art Competition is no exception. These days the tunnel in the Capitol where the students’ winning artwork is displayed is much quieter than usual. Most years I join a panel of local artists and art teachers to help select the winning pieces, but this year’s High School Art Competition will be hosted in an online format, and finalists will have photos of their artwork posted on my website.
In times like these, the arts are needed more than ever. If you know a young artist in Texas 12, let them know they have until next Thursday, May 14 to submit artwork. I look forward to seeing the entries in traditional categories like painting and drawing, and new categories like computer-generated art! As our students adjust to spending more time at home, I hope that art becomes a welcome way for them, and even some of us, to express creative energy and find inspiration in everyday materials at home.
For more information about this year’s High School Congressional Art Competition, visit my website: https://kaygranger.house.gov/art-competition. Contact Courtney Renken with any questions by calling my District Office at (817) 338-0909.
Member of Congress