Once children reach high school art classes, we're not talking macaroni necklaces or finger painting anymore. We're talking talented artistic expression. To celebrate that talent, every year members of Congress from across the country host competitions to choose a winner from their district whose art will be displayed in the nation's capital for one year. The pieces are hung in the Cannon Tunnel, which leads from the Cannon Office Building, where the representatives have their offices, to the Capitol, where they meet and vote.
Four of the five Long Island congressional districts' shows happen in April and May. (One district doesn't participate.) Competitors' artwork is displayed for public viewing before the winning student is selected; the schools are choosing their submissions now. Here are the dates for the upcoming shows:
FIRST CONGRESSIONAL DISTRICT
Rep. Tim Bishop (D)
The show includes photographs, computer art, paintings, collage, pen and ink and other such art. Three-dimensional art is not accepted. Last year, about 30 students' works were displayed, and Christian Mojallali of East Patchogue, who was then a senior at Bellport High School, took top honors for his portrait called "Young Girl." He and his parents were flown to Washington, D.C., for free to be in an awards event. "They had a ceremony where they showed all the pictures on a projector, and there were a whole bunch of speeches afterward," Mojallali says. Then, the winners got to see their artwork hanging in the Cannon Tunnel. "It was pretty nice," says Mojallali, now an 18-year-old freshman studying art at Northeastern University in Boston.
SECOND CONGRESSIONAL DISTRICT
Rep. Steve Israel (D)
The second district has only a one-day show. The winner will be announced that day. High schools from 33 school districts in Suffolk and Nassau have been invited to participate. The high schools decide which pieces to enter in the competition.
FOURTH CONGRESSIONAL DISTRICT
Rep. Carolyn McCarthy (D)
When | Where: 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday and 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. weekends from May 25 to June 1 at the Ruth S. Harley University Center Gallery, Adelphi University, 1 South Ave., Garden City, 516-739-3008, carolynmccarthy.house.gov. Free.
"The artwork is amazing, I can't believe it's high school students," says Michael Spira, who passes the display hanging in Washington throughout the year because he works as McCarthy's chief of staff. "It's wonderful . . . when constituents come from all over the country, we can point out artwork from a high school student in our district." Each of the 27 high schools in the Fourth District can submit three entries to the local competition.
FIFTH CONGRESSIONAL DISTRICT
Rep. Gary Ackerman (D)
When | Where: 11 a.m. to 4:45 p.m. Tuesdays through Sundays May 1 through May 16 at The Art Space for Children, Nassau County Museum of Art, 1 Museum Dr., Roslyn, 516-484-9337, nassaumuseum.org. $5 for adults; $4 for students, seniors and children ages 4 to 12; $2 parking fee on weekends;
The exhibit will showcase the work of students from the 39 high schools within the Fifth District, which includes seven in Nassau County and the rest in Queens. For the past three years, the winner has come from Great Neck South High School. Shannon Lee's portrait of a worker in front of a bank of computers won for its use of light coming off the computer terminal and reflecting on his figure, says Karen Cuchel, head of the art department at the school. "It's so nice to be recognized by our government that success in the arts is as important as the success in any academic program," Cuchel says.
'Long Island's Best: Young Artists at the Heckscher Museum': 2 Prime Ave., Huntington
When: Saturday, April 17 through May 2
Admission: $6-$8 adults; $5 seniors; $4-$6 students 10 and older; free younger than 10
Now in its 14th year, the show is a juried exhibition for art students in grades 9 through 12 from more than 50 public and private schools in Nassau and Suffolk counties. Opening reception and awards ceremony will be held from 3 to 5 p.m. Sunday.