When 18-year-old Laura Ryan entered the 31st Annual Congressional Art Competition, she wanted to make a statement with her artwork.
“Each section represents a different person,” says Ryan of her oil painting, “Unity,” which was selected to represent the 7th Congressional District. “The point was to show that even though we’re different people from different places, we still unify into one face.”
Every spring since 1982, the Congressional Institute has sponsored a nationwide art competition for high school students. Students submit entries to their representatives’ offices, which, in Ryan’s case, was Elijah Cummings’, and a panel of local artists selects the winning entries. On May 5 at the Walters Art Museum in Baltimore, Ryan competed against about 40 other students in her district and discovered she had won.
Greg English, Ryan’s art teacher at Reservoir High, is proud of his pupil.
“I was just so happy for Laura,” says English. “You could see the anticipation building. It was a joy to work with her.”
As this year’s winner, “Unity” will hang in the Cannon Tunnel at the Capitol for an entire year, and Ryan received a $100 gift certificate to an online art store. In June, Ryan joined other winners from across the country in a special awards ceremony in Washington, D.C.
Currently, Ryan is a freshman at University of Maryland College Park, where she has plans to major in mechanical engineering while pursuing her passion for art.
“I learned to say something with your art and not just make something with your art,” Ryan says. “I feel like the point of art is to utilize your skills to say something you think needs to be said, but in a nonverbal manner.”