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Finger-Pointing Baboons Named Hands-Down Art Competition Winner


Marissa stands near her collection of art displayed in the high school’s hallway
Marissa stands near her collection of art displayed in the high school’s hallway

Marissa Drew is drawn to illustrating animals with human bodies. Good call. Now she knows others agree with her artistic whimsy. A painting she initially drew for her high school Advanced Placement art and digital art classes has gained national recognition.

Her illustration of two finger-pointing baboons engaged in an obvious dispute was named the grand prize winner in U.S. Rep. Justin Amash’s 3rd District in the 2015 Congressional Art Competition. This year’s theme was “American Heritage.”

“I really like the way baboons look when they’re yelling,” Marissa said. “I didn’t expect to win. All the entries were really good pieces. I was surprised when mine made it.”

Pieces by Caledonia High School students Jack Corcoran and Ryan Martin earned honorable mentions.

Marissa and her family will fly to Washington,D.C. in late June to take part in a reception honoring the winners.

Area Winners Announced in National Art Competition
A Caledonia High School student’s artwork will hang in the U.S. Capitol for a year, and students from three other Kent ISD schools took top honors recently in a national art competition. Students, their families and art teachers gathered in April at the Ford Presidential Museum in downtown Grand Rapids for the formal Congressional Art Competition awards ceremony and reception hosted by Congressman Justin Amash (R-Mi).Every spring since 1982, high school art students from around the country compete to have their work chosen to hang in the halls of the U.S. Capitol. The Congressional Art Competition is sponsored by the Congressional Institute and U.S Representatives. Congressman Justin Amash hosts the event for schools in Michigan’s Third Congressional District, which includes parts of Barry, Calhoun, Ionia, Kent and Montcalm counties.

Local arts and education organizations including UICA, ArtPrize, Grand Rapids Art Museum and Kent ISD judge the contest and choose one grand prize-winning piece that hangs in Washington for one year. Each also presents an award on behalf of their organization. Congressman Amash personally chooses additional pieces to hang in his Grand Rapids and Washington offices for the year.

The 2015 Third District Congressional Art Competition winners are –

Grand Prize: Melissa Drew, Caledonia High School, Untitled
Congressman’s Choice: Grace Meade, Hastings Area Schools, Grandma’s House; Meg Fanco, Calendonia High School, Winter Night Scene

Art Center of Battle Creek: Jack Corcoran, Caledonia High School, Man vs. Nature

ArtPrize: Savanna Skye Kittel, East Kentwood Freshman Campus, “Jeune Amour”

Grand Rapids Art Museum: Natalie Taverez, East Kentwood High School, Paz

Kendall College of Art and Design of Ferris State University: Max Condon, East Grand Rapids High School, Canadian Fish Market

Kent ISD: Anna Herscher, East Grand Rapids High School, Entomology

UICA: Rachel Glenn, Northview High School, Science Fiction

On Display in U.S. Capitol

Her piece, “Untitled,” will be on display in the U.S. Capitol for one year, starting in late June, alongside winners from other congressional districts.

The Congressional Institute sponsors the annual art competition in cooperation with the House of Representatives. More than 650,000 high school students have participated since it began in 1982.

Caledonia’s High School’s three art teachers collectively selected 12 student entries for the competition. Judges selected Marissa’s as the grand prize winner to represent Amash’s district.

Judges included Kent Intermediate School District, Art Center of Battle Creek, ArtPrize, Grand Rapids Art Museum, Kendall College of Art and Design of Ferris State University, Portland Community Arts Council and the Urban Institute for Contemporary Arts.

Following graduation from high school, Marissa, 18, plans to enroll at Albion College and declare either a dual major in psychology and art, or psychology with an art minor.

Two is Better Than One

Her painting started as a line drawing with only one finger-pointing, screaming primate. But that rendition seemed artistically wrong to her, she said. She drew two, scanned the image and “painted” it using Photoshop.

“It seemed more balanced with two baboons,” Marissa said. “And I decided two would make it much more political, yet have it resemble revolutionary dress.”

Art teacher Mike Cornell said Marissa’s painting conveys a dual message.

Visually Powerful

The baboons are wearing colonial-period clothes. The one dressed in a red coat represents British forces that opposed the United States’ demand for independence, and the blue coat symbolizes the Americans who sought it.

The second is a contemporary message of the U.S. Congress that remains deadlocked passing bills for the President to sign, hence the reason one baboon is wearing a red coat with a blue background and the other a blue coat with a red background to symbolize Republicans (red) and Democrats (blue).

“It’s really visually powerful,” Cornell said. “It has a biting political message that depicts the way things are in politics these days.”

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Marissa’s art portfolio

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Morgan Jarema
Morgan Jarema
Morgan Jarema is a reporter and copy editor, covering East Grand Rapids, Forest Hills and Northview. She is a Grand Rapids native and a product of Grand Rapids Public Schools, including Brookside and West Leonard elementaries, City Middle/High School and Ottawa Hills. She found her tribe in journalism in 1997 and has never wanted to do anything but write. For 15 years she was a freelance journalist for The Grand Rapids Press, covering local schools and government, religion, business, home & garden and lifestyles. She and her husband, John, think even those without kiddos should be invested in their local schools and made to feel a part of them. Read Morgan's full bio or email Morgan.

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