Molalla High School student wins Congressional Art Competition
Students in art class at Molalla High School were surprised when U.S. Rep. Kurt Schrader walked into their classroom on Wednesday, May 2, but none more surprised than sophomore Alicia Johnson when leadership students sent confetti flying and Schrader announced that she was the winner of the Congressional Art Competition for the 5th District of Oregon.
"I was honestly just really surprised I won," Johnson said. "My art teacher and my family were very discreet about it so I had no clue."
Every year, United States Congress holds the art competition and selects a winner from each of the country's 435 congressional districts. Oregon has five congressional districts, the 5th encompassing nearly 700,000 people. Johnson competed against students from Salem, Lake Oswego, West Linn and more.
Ultimately, the judges chose Johnson's multimedia portrait of Malala Yousafzai, with the words "I am stronger than fear," as the 5th District winner.
"As a young artist in a small community, I never could have imagined ever having my art recognized at this level," Johnson said. "I am absolutely amazed to have been given this opportunity to go to Washington D.C. and have my art kept there….My parents and my art teacher, Mrs. Tran, have never failed to support me and encourage me to put myself out there. I am beyond excited to bring attention to Molalla High School and all we accomplish here."
Her piece incorporates linocut printmaking, spray paint, collage, papercutting, charcoal and cardboard. The subject of her portrait bears a similar name to Johnson's home town: Malala is a children's rights activist from Pakistan who advocates for girls' rights to education, according to nobelprize.org. In 2012, the Taliban attempted to assassinate Malala for her work; but she survived and was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2014, becoming the youngest ever Nobel Prize laureate.
"The judges were really excited," Schrader said. "They liked the imagery, they liked the creativity that you put into the piece, the geometric designs, the different styles. They thought it was pretty amazing, and it will stand in the halls of United States Congress."
Her art piece will now be placed alongside other winners' works in Cannon Tunnel in Washington D.C., the hallway between the Capitol Building and the Cannon House Office Building.
"We walk by this all the time," Schrader said, "and it's pretty cool because you see 435 pieces of art that line this otherwise kind of boring tunnel…They actually improved the lighting so you can really see the pieces really well. Every guest that comes to the United States Capitol walks by the art of all these kids."
Along with her award certificate, Johnson also received two round-trip tickets from Southwest Airlines to go to Washington D.C. this summer for an awards reception and to see all of the winning artwork in Cannon Tunnel, including her own.
Johnson is already an accomplished young artist and "a joy to teach," according to MHS Art Teacher Alissa Tran.
"She is humble, seeks feedback, takes creative risks, and is always willing to go above and beyond," Tran said. "I'm grateful to be her teacher and can't wait to see what else her future holds."
Johnson is the Vice President of the Molalla Art Club and is soon to be inducted into National Honor Society. She has participated twice in the Peer to Peer mentorship program with MHS, PSU and the Portland Art Museum. She designed the cover for the Writer's Society literary arts book, the poster for this year's tri-valley league art showcase and is currently working on a children's book. Now, she can add Congressional Art Competition winner to her resume.
"Congratulations. Art is pretty cool," Schrader said. "Believe it or not, in the United States Congress, we value this. There are always budget cuts, and we argue a lot, but arts and humanities stuff—those budgets are always pretty much restored because we value what you guys do. Keep up the good work. Keep America alive and creative, please."
The community has the opportunity to enjoy some of Johnson's other artwork when it is on display at the league art showcase at MHS on May 8 and the Spring Art Show on May 16.