By Joel Hall
Next Saturday in Jonesboro, dozens of the area's most talented young artists will compete for the chance to win thousands of dollars in art scholarships, and a chance to have their art displayed in the Cannon Tunnel of the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C.
On March 15, from 11 a.m., to 1 p.m., the 26th Annual High School Congressional Art Competition will take place at the Arts Clayton gallery. Students, whose art has been handpicked by high school art teachers throughout the 13th Congressional District, will take part in the prestigious competition.
Congressman David Scott (D-Ga.), who has hosted the competition for the last six years, said it was a chance to reward students with "God-given talent."
"We have to encourage the creative forces of our society," said Scott. "Everybody can't be a star football player or basketball player ... so we have tried to find other avenues to encourage young people to push themselves."
The first-place winner will have the choice of a $10,000 scholarship to attend the Art Institute of Atlanta, or a $5,000 per year (for four years) scholarship to the Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD).
The top winner will also be invited to attend a ribbon-cutting ceremony in the Cannon Tunnel in Washington, D.C., on June 25, where his or her art will be displayed, alongside winners from other congressional districts.
The second-place winner will receive a $5,000 scholarship to the Art Institute of Atlanta and have his or her work displayed in Scott's Washington, D.C., office. The third-place winner will get a $2,000 scholarship from the Art Institute of Atlanta and have his or her art displayed in Scott's Jonesboro office.
The competition this year will also include an honorable mention category, the winner of which will have his or her work displayed in Scott's new district office in Smyrna.
Linda Summerlin, executive director of Arts Clayton, said the competition has grown over the years, and that each year, more money has been allotted for the art scholarships. She said the competition provides students with unique exposure and opportunities.
"Arts Clayton was founded on a real focus on art education," said Summerlin. "We know the future lies in the ability of our kids. For us to be part this ... it's a win-win."
"It gives them a superior jump-start," said Arts Clayton Assistant Gallery Manager Peggy Brooks. She said this competition was her favorite out of the ones hosted throughout the year, because many of the works are "outside of the box."
"Their point of view is still very pure, whether it is realistic or not," said Brooks. "They still say what they feel on the canvas. They have no boundaries. The older ones tend to fall into the categories of what the art world is specifying, but they do not."