Young artists testify to the power of imagination


The cavernous walls of the United States Capitol will be a little more colorful with some of Minnesota’s very own talent, thanks to the great efforts of local high school art students in the Fifth Congressional District.

The Perpich Center for Arts Education (PCAE), located in Golden Valley, hosted an art forum and reception on May 12 to applaud amateur artists for their participation in the 27th Annual U.S. Congressional Art Competition.

Eleven high schools located in the Fifth Congressional District were represented at the forum. Twenty-seven teachers from those schools submitted art pieces completed by 52 students.

“This is a big deal for all these kids,” said former Minnesota State Representative Betty Folliard, who currently works in Congressman Keith Ellison’s office (D-Fifth District). “The participation that was showcased from all the students shows the importance in elevating arts education.”

The students’ art pieces were on display for one month as part of an art exhibition at the Perpich Center. The showcased work came in all forms: sketches, paintings, photographs and multimedia visuals.
The titles of each piece of work varied just as much as the individual artists behind their masterpieces. There was “Morning Dew,” “Ballet Shoes,” “Spring Wings,” “Mixed Emotions,” “Romanticism” and “Over Indulgence.”

“We are here tonight to celebrate this thing that all humans do in all human civilizations,” said Congressman Ellison. “Human beings have always had a need to express themselves… Artists do a tremendous service to us all, and we thank the artists and the art students for their hard work.”

A panel of judges reviewed the 52 pieces that were submitted for the competition. The artists’ names and the schools they attended were covered up, allowing the judges to not be influenced in making their decisions.

All participants received a congratulatory certificate from Congressman Ellison. The second- and third-place entries will have their work displayed in the congressman’s office in Washington, D.C., and in his district office in Minnesota. The first-place entry will be displayed in a prominent location in the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C.

Anna Allord is a 10th grader from El Colegio Charter School in Minneapolis. Her entry, “Water is Sacred,” is a vinyl painting that portrays pollution in the Mississippi River. “People should respect God’s creation,” said Allord.

To Anna, art is important. “It’s where we get to express our feelings. It’s how we see life, and it’s how we can communicate when it’s hard to find the right words to express ourselves.”

To those in attendance like Anna, the forum meant so much more than just recognizing the great work that was on display. It was a celebration of the arts and a reminder of just how important art education is, especially during slumping economic times when school districts can be quick to slash funding for arts and music education.

“I am most impressed with the scope of ideas here tonight,” noted Dr. Nathan Davis, executive director of the Perpich Center. “I think a lot of people value imagination in education. I think we’re there in how people view it. However, we tend to separate, rather than synthesize, when these decisions are made [by school districts].”

Sarah Schultz of the Walker Arts Center was a guest speaker for the night. She inspired students with 10 ideas to help them achieve their greatest potential in the sometimes very difficult career of art.

These ideas included being patient and kind to yourself, risking failure, asking difficult questions and not expecting easy answers — all concepts that could come in handy in a lot of areas in life other than art.

The creativity of junior Cornelius Williams of El Colegio Charter School really caught the judges’ eyes. He was awarded first place for his watercolor “Koi in Pond.”

Cornelius noted that his creativity is the best when he is at school in the classroom. “I used the emotional/rational method to make this painting,” he said. “At first I came up with a bunch of colors for the background, and then added the fish in later.”

Congressman Ellison’s office awarded Cornelius a $1,500 voucher to use toward a trip to Washington, D.C., to see with his own eyes his painting mounted in the Capitol.

“Art is really important, because it makes a community look better,” noted Cornelius. “If you notice, most people respect good murals and usually leave them alone. People appreciate them.”

The judges awarded Sam Upham of Robbinsdale Armstrong High School second place and Etta Sandry of Perpich Center Arts High third place.

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