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Calling Local Artists for the Congressional Art Competition

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For nearly a half-century, the Congressional Art Competition has honored and spotlighted the finest student artists throughout the state of Florida. And now, entries are being sought for the 43rd Annual Congressional Art Competition for High School Students in the 12th Congressional District of Florida

The Congressional Art Competition was launched in 1982 and is coordinated by Members of Congress. An annual high school art competition and exhibition representing congressional districts across the nation, the competition is hosted locally by Congressman Gus M. Bilirakis & the Congressional Institute.

Summer Blevins, Deputy Chief of Staff for the Office of Congressman Gus Bilirakis, says that this student art competition has a long tradition in this and surrounding areas. “This will be the Congressman’s 17th year hosting the Congressional Art Competition in his district,” she said. “The competition is now in its 43rd year.”

This year’s artwork will be on display at a local awards reception on Thursday, April 25, 2024, from 5–7 p.m. at Land O’ Lakes High School (20325 Gator Lane, Land O’ Lakes). Students will have an opportunity to speak with the panel of judges, who are themselves accomplished artists and active in our community.

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The winning Best of Show artwork will travel to Washington, D.C., to be displayed for one year in the U.S. Capitol Building’s Cannon Tunnel with other congressional district winners. “Students have an opportunity to express themselves through art in various formats,” said Blevins. “There are seven categories in which to compete: paintings (oil, acrylics, watercolor, etc.); drawings (colored pencil, pencil, ink, marker, pastels, charcoal); collages (must be two-dimensional); prints (lithographs, silkscreen, block prints); mixed media (use of more than two mediums such as pencil, ink, watercolor, etc.); computer-generated art; and photographs.”

In the eyes of Congressman Bilirakis, the arts form an important component of every student’s education. “The arts are a vital part of a well-rounded education. Our students are extremely talented in each category. Each year, I’m impressed by the detail and passion displayed in their artwork. I enjoy meeting the artists at our annual reception and recognizing them for their creativity and hard work,” said Congressman Bilirakis.

According to Blevins, this competition can serve as a powerful teaching tool. She said, “Teachers can use the art competition to inspire students’ creativity.” They can incorporate the competition into their regular classwork or offer extra credit to students.

Furthermore, winners will see their work shown and showcased on an exciting national platform.
“The overall winning artwork will hang in the Cannon Tunnel of the U.S. Capitol for one year. The tunnel is the most highly traveled access point between the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Capitol,” said Blevins. “Every day, Members of Congress, distinguished visitors, and tens of thousands of tourists from the United States and abroad walk through the tunnel and admire the artwork. The Best in Show usually receives two free flights to Washington, DC, for the annual reception for winners in all districts. While they are there, we offer a tour of the Capitol.”

Winning students also will be honored on a local level, including right here in Hernando County.
“Our office also recognizes the top artwork for each district county—Pasco, Hernando, and Citrus counties—and hangs those winning pieces in each district office. Local businesses provide additional prizes to students,” she added.

In Blevins’ view, students benefit from arts and arts education in many ways. “Art is important in early development, helping children and youth develop motor skills, social skills, decision-making, create confidence and inventiveness,” she said. “Students can use art as a way to express themselves, lift their spirits, and show love to their family and friends. The arts and art education teach us that there are no mistakes in art.”

Furthermore, she emphasizes that art can indeed be a marketable skill. “Many students have started turning their art into profits—becoming entrepreneurs at an early age,” she said. “One of our students from last year’s competition has become active in the local Art Walk festivals and sells some of her work.”

The Hernando County Fine Arts Council is providing full support for this competition. “Promoting and supporting contests like this directly fulfills our mission to encourage, promote, and support all the creative arts in Hernando County and to provide a means to showcase the arts,” said Allisa Babor, Hernando County Fine Arts Council Chair.

Babor feels that arts education is critical to the development of any child. “I believe that we can’t begin to count the ways that students benefit from the arts and arts education. Engaging in the arts isn’t just about painting or singing,” she said. “It’s about fostering creativity and critical thinking, shaping students into well-rounded individuals. Studies show a positive correlation between involvement in the arts and higher academic achievement, as it promotes innovation and a deeper appreciation for cultural nuances. From enhancing emotional intelligence to promoting cultural appreciation, the arts play a crucial role in preparing students for higher education and success in life.”

Students in Hernando County from public, private, charter, and home schools are welcome to exhibit in this competition. The deadline for entries is Thursday, April 11. All Hernando County entries must be delivered to the Brooksville Office of Congressman Gus M. Bilirakis at 15 N Main Street, Suite B, Brooksville, FL 34601.

Entries are limited to one per student, and each art teacher may enter up to five works. “Take the plunge into your art and invest time in perfecting your piece,” said Babor. “Beyond the chance to win, this contest opens doors to new friendships, potential opportunities, and the thrill of seeing your work displayed in an exhibition. Not only is this contest a chance to showcase your talents and possibly win, but it’s a golden opportunity to get a taste of the exciting possibilities that lie ahead for you in the world of art.”

For more information, visit https://www.hernandoarts.org/opportunities/congressional-art-competition-2024 or call (352) 691-1231.

Megan Hussey
Megan Hussey
Megan Hussey is a features journalist and author who is the winner of Florida Press Association honors and a certificate of appreciation from LINCS (Family Support Domestic and Sexual Violence Prevention Task Force) and Sunrise Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Center for her newspaper coverage of these issues. She graduated cum laude from Ball State University in Muncie, Ind., with a journalism major and English/sociology minor, and previously wrote for publications that include the Pasco editions of The Tampa Tribune and Tampa Bay Times. A native of Indiana, she lives in Florida.
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