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Art Award Tradition Continues for 35th Year of Excellence

Congressional Art Competition Attracts Area Students

Northview High School sophomore Nick Ensing’s drawing depicts a colorful, detailed royal court, staffed by doe-eyed kings, queens and jesters.

Junior Ellie Haveman’s photo is of a girl’s face, simple, shadowy and pure.

Both pieces are Representative’s Choice winners for ArtFest 2017, the Congressional Art Competition for Michigan’s 3rd District. They will be displayed for one year in U.S. Rep. Justin Amash’s congressional offices.

The Northview students’ works were among many submitted for the annual art competition held in U.S. congressional districts, in which more than 650,000 students have participated since it began in 1982. In the 3rd District, 93 pieces were submitted and displayed at the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Library & Museum.

Students whose pieces received honorable mention in the 3rd Congressional District are:

  • Clara Dart,Thornapple Kellogg High School
  • Maggie Doherty, Thornapple Kellogg High School
  • Lyrah Woltjer, Forest Hills Eastern High School
  • Katrina Peterson, Caledonia High School
  • Donovan B. Tucker, Kent Career Tech Center, home school Forest Hills Central
  • Kennedy VanLierop, Byron Center High School
  • Madelyn Verbrugge, Caledonia High School
  • Isaac Thomas, Kent Career Tech Center, home school Kelloggsville High School
  • Mitchell VanDyke, Caledonia High School

Grace Vroegindewey, a student at Plymouth Christian High School, won the grand prize for her piece “Wild Cats,” and will visit Washington, D.C., this June for a reception honoring the winners. Her piece will be on display in the U.S. Capitol for one year alongside winners from other congressional districts.

“There are so many artistically talented students in West Michigan, and ArtFest provides them with both an outlet for their creativity and well-deserved public recognition,” Amash said.

He has enthusiastically continued a tradition that has endured through six presidents and countless political battles. Even amid the current upheavals roiling the capital, these students’ artworks testify to the value of arts education in area public schools.

An Artistic Natural

Nick, who has been passionate about art since he was 4, drew his piece, “Modern Renaissance,” with marker and colored pencils. His friends might find something familiar about it.

“I wanted to do a great picture of all my friends and everyone I love,” he said. “I have a great group of diversified friends.”

Northview High School sophomore Nick Ensing loves photography and dabbles in other mediums

“Nick has God-given talent,” said Northview art teacher Tricia Erickson. “He’s a natural when it comes to drawing and painting,”

Nick, who plans to major in art in college, has been focusing on photography lately, working with the lost-art of film.

“Pure” is the result of a photo Ellie took of her friend, junior Chloe Warmuskerken, while they were on a nature trail. “I really loved the way it turned out,” Ellie said. “I really liked how pure it is; very simple, very real.”

Ellie, who may pursue a career in photography, said she has learned her craft from the Northview High School art program.

“I was so invested in taking good pictures that I fell in love with it,” she said, adding, “The art program here is such a community. Everybody knows each other; everybody’s rooting for each other.”

“Ellis is a very hard worker, she’s involved with a lot of things and she loves photography. She’s always taking photographs,” Erickson said. “She is a tremendously hard-working, happy, positive, can-do kind of person and that gets her pretty far in life.”

Northview High School junior Ellie Haveman spots her piece at ArtFest 2017

A Dozen Honored

Ellie and Nick are among several Kent County students whose art pieces were honored recently at the award ceremony. Nine other students from area schools earned honorable mentions (see list).

The judging committee included representatives from the Grand Rapids Art Museum, Kendall College of Art and Design of Ferris State University, Kent ISD, Lake Michigan Credit Union, Portland Community Arts Council, Urban Institute for Contemporary Arts, ArtPrize, Kellogg Community College Art Department, and the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Foundation.

Kent ISD purchases 10-12 pieces each year from the show for its permanent collection, which is displayed on the walls of the Education Service Center and open to the public during business hours.

The Congressional Institute sponsors the Congressional Art Competition in cooperation with the U.S. House of Representatives. The annual competition is open to high school students in participating congressional districts.


Congressional Art Competition

“Bell” by Madelyn Verbrugge

“Abandoned” by Maggie Doherty

“Quintessence” by Donovan B. Tucker

“Modern Renaissance” by Nick Ensing, Representative’s Choice

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Erin Albanese
Erin Albanese
Erin Albanese has worked as a journalist in the Grand Rapids area since 2000. A graduate of Central Michigan University, she has written for The Grand Rapids Press, Advance Newspapers and On-the-Town Magazine. She has been covering the many exciting facets of K-12 public education for School News Network since 2013. Read Erin's full bio or email Erin.


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