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Art From Across America

Youths’ Works on View in Capitol

“The arts are the building blocks for everything,” Adam Amick said while looking out over the third-floor balcony of the Cannon House Office Building. “This building is a piece of art.”

Amick, 19, of Casper, Wyo., is one of more than 200 winners who descended on Capitol Hill Tuesday for the 24th annual Congressional high school art competition, “An Artistic Discovery.”

Young artists in every Congressional district enter the contest, started in 1981 by Sen. Jim Jeffords (I-Vt.), then a Republican House Member. The competition selects one

winning work per Congressional district, and the winners’ works are then displayed for one year in the tunnel between Cannon and the Capitol. This year’s competition was co-chaired by Reps. Linda Sanchez (D-Calif.) and Vito Fossella (R-N.Y.).

“This competition gives an opportunity for kids to showcase their creativity,” Fossella said, “and gives parents great pride as well.”

And, because art is frequently the program of choice for school boards’ chopping blocks, it is important to “maintain, when possible, a commitment to art in schools,” he added.

Tuesday’s festivities kicked off with a noontime ribbon-cutting ceremony replete with carnival fare and a mime, while a steel-drum band laid down the soundtrack in the background.

Sohee Koo, 18, won the competition for Fossella’s Staten Island district with her pencil drawing, “Gesture of Hope.” Koo, who moved to New York from Seoul, South Korea, about two years ago, said her piece shows the “ways [she’ll] continue her life as an artist.”

“In my life, there have been many difficult things to get over,” Koo said. Still, “I am young and I want to find a true sense of myself.”

Koo, who just finished her junior year of high school, said she would like to study art at a university in the New York area.

Amick, who recently graduated from Natrona County High School, Vice President Cheney’s alma mater, said he will use his deft fine art skills as a way to finance other studies; he is leaning toward film.

After winning third place as an exchange student in New Hampshire last year, Alicja Slabecka, 18, was finally able to take a trip to Washington, D.C. Now a resident in Niles, Ill., Slabecka worked with her art teacher on her acrylic-on-canvas self-portrait “Untitled.”

Like many aesthetic works, the painting was “very spontaneous,” Slabecka said. “I did it over the weekend,” she said. “I was really in a rush.”

Joshua Fowler, an 18-year-old from Biloxi, Miss., attended Tuesday’s ribbon-cutting ceremony with his father, Air Force Capt. Larry Fowler.

Fowler said three years of art training “made it a lot easier to explain things in my head” and helped him overcome writing difficulties.

“It really helped with my creative side,” Joshua Fowler said.

Despite winning the competition for Rep. Gene Taylor’s (D-Miss.) district, however, Joshua Fowler said art “is more of a hobby than anything else” and would like to attend the Air Force Academy.

The two choices are equally perilous, according to his father.

“Should he become a starving artist or a fighter pilot, they’re both dangerous occupations,” Capt. Fowler said.

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