ROCHELLE — Each spring, the Congressional Institute sponsors a nationwide high school art competition for each district in the country. The Congressional Art Competition is an opportunity to recognize and encourage artistic talent in our youth, reaching every corner of the United States.
Tuesday, Congressman Adam Kinzinger (R-IL) announced the winner of the 2022 Congressional Art Competition for the 16th District of Illinois. This year marks the Congressman’s last year participating in the Congressional Institute’s Art Competition, and caps off his perfect record of taking part in every year that he served in Congress. This year’s winner is Rochelle Township High School’s Marlen Hueramo’s work entitled “Lunch in the Commons.”
This piece is a realistic color pencil representation of her friends having lunch in the RTHS cafeteria. This artwork conveys Marlen’s AP Art inquiry question this year: How can I capture the high school experience from my point of view?
Congressman Kinzinger was impressed with Marlen’s “extraordinary skills and ability to capture her subject matter with incredible detail.” However, this is not the first time that the Congressman was impressed with Marlen’s artwork. Marlen won the Congressional Art Award in 2020 as a sophomore for her work “El Loro” and received an honorable mention last year for her work “Hacienda Tamales.” RTHS Art Department Chair Beth Mock said of her repeat win “Marlen is an incredible artist, especially her sense of realism and her ability to capture a moment. She has worked extremely hard to improve her skills and content and it shows in her work. I am very proud of all of her accomplishments and look forward to seeing her continue to grow as an artist at the college level.”
Marlen’s work, along with other 2022 Congressional Art winners, will hang in the tunnel between the US Capitol and Congress for a full year. Along with this honor, Marlen has won a trip for two to Washington, D.C., this summer to see her work on display. In 2020, the ceremony was canceled due to the pandemic. The Congressman stated that he “remains hopeful that as we move past the pandemic, the Congressional Institute will be able to host an in-person ceremony as the U.S. Capitol Visitor Center reopens to the public.”
This honor is the last of many bestowed upon Marlen of late. At the 37th annual RTHS Art Show, Marlen’s color pencil “Bubbles” won Best of Show and her painting “Achievement” won the Principal's Award. This was after taking home first place in the I-8 Conference Competition for this piece, “Lunch in the Commons.” Additionally, at RTHS Honors Night May 2, it was announced that she will continue on her artistic journey next year at Northern Illinois University, pursuing an art education degree for which she received a performance scholarship as well as many other accolades.
“I am extremely grateful for all of these opportunities, but none of it could have been possible without the love and support from my friends, family, and the wonderful people at RTHS who continue to inspire me every step of the way,” Hueramo said.
Fellow art student Troy Papke earned the Honorable Mention Congressional Award for his work “Mizzle.” Ms, Swofford, first year photography teacher, said of his win “This photograph and Troy’s ambition greatly reminds me of the famous Jay Maisel quote, ‘The best camera is the one you have with you’ as he does a wonderful job sharing his personal passion with his peers, and extending his classroom lessons to personal work.”
Troy explained that his photograph was his “adoration for the power that remains in both rain and photography.” A junior, Troy is excited to compete in next year’s competition and “keep the winning going.” In the meantime, Troy’s work will be on display in the Congressman’s local office for a year.
Congressman Kinzinger said of the event, “On behalf of the 16th Congressional District, I’m proud to congratulate Marlen, our runner-up, and our honorable mentions on their achievement. How lucky are we to have such impressive artwork adorn our walls? Special thank you to the teachers who have mentored our young artists over the years and encouraged them to participate in the Congressional Art Competition to showcase their talent. I have thoroughly enjoyed seeing the artwork from our students every year and am thankful to have had the opportunity to host this event in my official capacity.”
In response to Congressman’s Kinzinger’s statement, Mock said, “We in the RTHS Art Department are very proud of both Marlen and Troy. They are success stories of the RTHS Art Department and we look forward to seeing what the future holds for each of them. At this time, however, I would be remiss not to take this opportunity to thank the Congressman for his continual support of the arts and our art students. It has been a privilege to be a part of this event with him and his staff.”