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Congresswoman Ann McLane Kuster

Representing the 2nd District of New Hampshire

Monadnock Ledger-Transcript: Owl to decorate halls of Capitol

May 7, 2014
In The News

The artwork of one of ConVal’s own will soon be featured on the walls of the U.S. Capitol building in Washington D.C., hanging alongside art by dozens of other teenage artists from across the country.

McKenzie West, 17, of Francestown has been painting her whole life. Her talent was first recognized by her kindergarten teacher and has been fostered ever since by various art teachers and scholarship opportunities where her talent was allowed to grow. West, a senior at ConVal High School, will be continuing to pursue an arts career, as she plans to attend the Lyme Academy College of Fine Arts in Old Lyme, Conn., which specializes in figurative and representational art, after graduation. But one of her proudest honors, she said in a conference call Monday morning, is the opportunity to represent her state in the Capitol building.

“I was in shock,” said West, about when she got the call that her work had been selected as the top in the district. West was notified last week, and the winner was officially announced during an artist’s reception on Friday. West’s painting was selected by a panel of jurors from the Kimball-Jenkins Estate & School of Art in Concord.

“It was so incredible that something that big could happen to me. It’s the highest honor that I’ve received,” West said.

West was one of 42 students from the 2nd Congressional District who submitted artwork to the 2014 Congressional Art Competition. The competition began in 1982 as a way for Congress to encourage and recognize young artistic talent, and recognize it they did in West’s submitted painting of a Great Horned Owl.

West said that she painted the owl while attending an early scholarship program provided by the Art Institute of Chicago last summer. It is one of her stronger scholarship pieces, she explained, so she selected it as her submission piece for the Congressional Art Competition.“It’s this incredible painting... that truly demonstrates McKenzie’s talent,” said U.S. Congresswoman Annie Kuster (D-NH 2nd District) during Monday’s conference call. “There was a lot of beautiful artwork. We had a wide range, with lots of different mediums — charcoal, watercolors, photographs. The young artists are stretching themselves, their boundaries, and learning about different ways to convey emotion and experience. I was very inspired by them.”

West is one of two artists whose work will be representing New Hampshire. The other is Summer Hutchins, a senior at Manchester Memorial High School, representing New Hampshire’s 1st Congressional District.

“I’m very proud to represent the state, and the students that were brave enough to represent themselves,” said West. “And I’m grateful to Representative Kuster for supporting this initiative, and value of art in society.”

Kuster noted that like West, many of the artists in the contest will be pursuing a career or higher education in the arts. It’s important to give those students a chance to showcase their skill, she said. “It seems other, more traditional paths get recognition more often. It felt good to me to recognize the potential for these artists going forward with art as a career path.”

Runners-up from the 2nd N.H. District will be given scholarships from the New Hampshire Institute of Art.

In addition to West’s painting being displayed in the Capitol building, West has also been invited to attend a reception in Washington, D.C. later this month to view the display in person.

Ashley Saari can be reached at 924-7172 ex. 244, or