When Lily Wang got an overnight package she wasn’t expecting, she and her mother puzzled over it for a few minutes.
Finally, she said, “I think I know what this is.” The package contained airline tickets from Los Angeles to Washington, D.C.
“I sort of knew that it was because I won, and I was really excited,” she said.
Wang received the airline tickets from Rep. Julia Brownley’s office for her first-place win in the 2013 Congressional Art Competition, an annual contest since 1982 featuring high school students who produce art that represents their congressional district.
“Every congressional district has a winner, and all the winners come to Washington on June 26th,” Brownley said as she hosted Wang, three runners-up, fellow participants, and their families, teachers and local dignitaries at a Tuesday evening open house at the Ventura County Community Foundation building in Camarillo.
The winning artwork will hang in the U.S. Capitol for a year with artwork from the other congressional districts.
Wang’s artwork, a digital drawing done on an art tablet connected to her computer, portrays a strawberry truck and its driver giving a basket of berries to a child.
“I’ve been drawing since I could hold a pencil,” said the 17-year old Westlake High School senior.
Wang, who plans to attend UC San Diego in the fall studying biology, said a real-life strawberry truck that stops in her neighborhood inspired her.
“The man in the picture is actually from a photo I took of the truck driver,” Wang said. “Art can keep me sane while I’m studying biology. It lets me know I’m still human.”
Andrea Vargas, an artist and curator of the Santa Paula Art Museum, was one of three judges choosing from among 22 entrants. The artists were required to reflect their sense of where they lived.
“We also judged technique and execution,” Vargas said. “But we really wanted them to produce a story. They gave us a lot to work with, too. We got twice as many entrants as we expected to get.”
Brownley described the artwork as “extraordinary.” The pieces have been on display at the foundation building.
“Art is a singular language,” the congresswoman said. “I just can’t underscore how much I believe in arts education, and sadly, so many school districts are completely devoid of art education.”
In addition to Wang’s winning picture, three students won honorable mentions for their entries: Alexis Bramwell, of Camarillo High School; Emily Guerra, of Westlake High School; and Lonny Padilla, of Pacifica High School. Each received a certificate from Brownley and a photo with her.
Padilla’s photograph, taken with an iPhone 3G, portrayed a baseball field in Somis.
“I actually do this a lot, but I want to get back into photography more. I used some photo editing software and was able to do it,” Padilla said. “I never thought that the picture would get me this far.”
Rhiannon Wademan, a senior at Villanova Preparatory School in Ojai, painted an acrylic image of the Ojai tower.
“It’s one of the real landmarks in Ojai, and I see it every day, so I wanted to capture it. It’s more of a hobby for me, but I enjoyed doing it,” the 18-year-old said.
Brian Stethem, one of the competition’s judges and a photographer and art instructor at California Lutheran University, said he was impressed by the quality of the art.
“Given that these are high school kids, I was really amazed,” he said. “The competition had everything, too, from digital productions to paint and brushes. What creativity is has really blown up and changed.”