Colorado student artists will see their works, and identities, on display in the U.S. Capitol

Congressional art contest winner Madison Lee and Congresswoman Diana DeGette together hold Lee's award winning painting.
Photo courtesy of the Office of Rep. Diana DeGette
Madison Lee and Rep. Diana DeGette with Lee’s “Bridging Identities.”

Skye Little Cloud entered the Congressional Art Competition on a whim.

The 16-year-old senior at Skyline High School in Longmont explained that her art teachers forwarded the contest to her and she thought it would be fun. 

Her painting, titled “The Hoofed Protector,” was selected by a panel from Congressman Joe Neguse’s 2nd Congressional District to hang in the U.S. Capitol complex for a year, joining hundreds of other works of art done by students from congressional districts nationwide.

“It’s kind of crazy now that it’s actually happening,” she said.

Little Cloud’s work is inspired by a Native American story of a deer woman who’s known to protect women and children. It portrays the woman and an “ethereal” looking deer, her spirit form.

“I’m actually very thankful for that piece being the one that’s going into the Capitol,” she said. Not only because of the time and energy that went into it but “I put a lot of… thought behind it, especially with my Indigenous culture. It means a lot to us.”

Neguse’s office did double duty this year for the competition. After former Rep. Ken Buck stepped down early, Neguse’s office worked with a panel to select the 4th Congressional District’s art winner.

“The Savior,” created by Chloe Schaal, a senior at Mountain View High School in Loveland, took the top spot. Her work depicts a cowboy atop a horse trying to get another bucking horse under control.

Courtesy of the office of Rep. Joe Neguse
The Savior by Chloe Schaal.
Courtesy of the Office of Rep. Joe Neguse
The Hoofed Protector by Skye Little Cloud.

For the students it’s a rare opportunity to showcase their talent, their backgrounds, and their state, in a part of the Capitol where hundreds of lawmakers and visitors pass through on most weekdays.

That’s part of the reason why Madison Lee, a junior at the Denver School of the Arts, entered the competition: to get her work out there. 

Her painting, “Bridging Identities,”was chosen for the 1st Congressional District and depicts Lee in a traditional Korean dress with cowboy boots and a cowboy hat, the two cultures she grew up with in Colorado.

“I was really inspired by the two different cultures coming together and I wanted to represent my own identity, where it was kind of like a mix of two different cultures and not just entirely one or the other, cause that’s definitely how I felt a lot growing up,” Lee said.

Lee’s piece “represents an important perspective of merging identities, something that underscores the culture of Colorado and the American West,” said Rep. Diana DeGette.

Other art competition winners across the state include the following:

  • For the 5th Congressional District, Sharon Lee of Pine Creek High School in Colorado Springs for her piece titled, “Our Fluttering Pysche.”
  • For the 6th Congressional District, senior Jennifer Wen of Cherry Creek High School for her piece titled, “Reconcile.” 
  • For the 7th Congressional District, sophomore Joey Fiechtl of Green Mountain High School for his piece titled, “Capitol in the Trees.” 
  • For the 8th Congressional District, Emily Luna of Westminster High School for her piece titled, “Spring in Colorado.” 

(The office of 3rd Congressional District congresswoman Lauren Boebert did not respond to multiple requests from CPR News about its selection for the annual art contest.)

Photo courtesy of the Office of Rep. Yadira Caraveo.
Emily Luna poses with her art piece, "Spring in Colorado."

“This special event allows Members of Congress to formally recognize the talents and artistic ability of students and teachers throughout our districts. I am so pleased to see the wonderful and unique talent we have here in Colorado's 5th Congressional District,” said Rep. Doug Lamborn.

Neguse congratulated the students, saying all the artwork submitted was “moving and powerful.” He added that he’s looking forward to walking by the works in the tunnel, “and being reminded of the inspiring next generation of Americans cultivating their talents in our communities.”

The students will get the opportunity to see their art inside the Capitol firsthand. Part of the award includes plane tickets to Washington, D.C. to celebrate as a group.

Little Cloud has a countdown on her phone for when she gets to travel to the Capitol and celebrate with the other student artists. “I’m honestly very grateful for that.”