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The Sausage Factory

Art Competition Brings Congress Together

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The rarest word in politics these days is “bipartisanship.” The political divide in our country has never been wider, and on any given day, it seems like we will never cross that chasm to find common ground with those on the other side of the political spectrum.

That’s why the annual Congressional Art Competition is such a refreshing change of page. It is bipartisan, each year featuring two Members of Congress—a Republican and a Democrat—as co-chairs. It is popular; this year, 422 congressional districts participated. And it celebrates the artistic achievements of America’s high school students.

The co-chairs for the 2017 competition were Ohio Rep. Marcia Fudge (D-OH 11) and Pennsylvania Rep. Mike Kelly (R-PA 3). Here’s what each of them had to say about the event:

“Art education is critically important to the future of our nation. It spurs innovation, fosters creativity, and enhances critical thinking. That’s why the Congressional Art Competition is so important. I am pleased to serve as co-chair of this year’s competition, along with my friend and colleague, Congressman Kelly, and congratulate all of this year’s winners,” said Rep. Fudge.

“I congratulate every student across America who entered this year’s contest,” said Rep. Kelly. “Each young artist deserves enormous credit for putting their talents on display for all to see. That alone is no easy task. I especially congratulate all of this year’s winners and look forward to honoring them with their families here in our nation’s capital. I thank the Congressional Institute for once again hosting this event, as well as the countless schools, teachers, and volunteers for devoting so much of their time and energy to making this competition such a wonderful success. I couldn’t be prouder to have served as co-chair with my colleague Rep. Fudge. Any opportunity to cross party lines to champion artistic expression among our youth is an opportunity worth seizing.”

Fostering creativity, showcasing the talents of students, crossing party lines. These are worthy goals. That’s why Members of Congress are always eager to participate. Each Member decides for himself or herself how the competition will be run in their own districts. Many decide to appoint a panel of art experts to act as judges. The first-place winner is given the opportunity to come to Washington, DC, to be honored at a reception and to see his or her artwork hanging in one of the most trafficked hallways leading from the U.S. House of Representatives office buildings into the U.S. Capitol. Thousands of visitors, including tourists and foreign dignitaries, will walk past the paintings, drawings and photographs and marvel that they are from high school students.

The Congressional Institute has been involved with the art competition since 2006. With Congress unable to successfully conduct much of its business due to sky-high levels of partisanship, the Institute is proud to sponsor an event that brings all sides together. Part of our mission is to help the public understand the inner workings of Congress. We look at how the committees are working through appropriations and authorizations – colloquially known as “spending your tax dollars” – and the impact partisanship has on legislation.

The Institute has also conducted extensive research into how Americans view Congress and what they want done to solve our country’s problems. The Institute frequently releases its finding along with links to other important research in our newsletter.

Mark Strand is the President of the Congressional Institute. The Sausage Factory blog is a Congressional Institute project dedicated to explaining parliamentary procedure, Congressional politics, and other issues pertaining to the legislative branch.

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