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Student wins second straight grand prize in Congressional Art Competition

Local teens get recognized at ArtFest 2019

The third time wasn’t the only charm for Northview senior Nick Ensing. His first and second times entering the Congressional Art Competition were charmed as well.

For the second straight year, Nick was named the grand prize winner for Michigan’s 3rd District in the ArtFest Congressional Art Competition. His oil on wood painting, “Frainteso,” was announced as top prize recently by Rep. Justin Amash at the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum.

The first year he entered the contest his artwork was selected as a Representative’s Choice winner by Rep. Amash to hang in his office. Last year, he won the grand prize for his moody photo “Classy,” which was hung in the U.S. Capitol. This time around, his painting again will be displayed in the Capitol for a year alongside winners from other congressional districts.

“For me, it’s not about myself winning the award for a second year in a row” that matters, said Nick, “but the fact that two portraits of black women, both being an expression of art, are going to hang inside the U.S. Capitol for two consecutive years.”

Northview senior Nick Ensing and Rep. Justin Amash, from left. Nick won his second-straight grand prize in the Congressional Art Competition for Michigan’s 3rd district (courtesy photo)

Both portraits speak to hard realities in today’s America, Nick added.

“The fact that a portrait of a black Mother Mary is going to hang in the Capitol, in an ornate frame, is amazing, especially with what’s going on with the political climate in D.C. That’s why I do what I do, is to primarily help gain representation and inclusion for black people in white-dominated art spaces.

“I try to recognize my privilege as a white male with what I have handed to me, and how I can use that to help bring inclusion, equality and justification to the table in America today.”

Nick visited Washington, D.C., in late June for a reception honoring the winners. He plans to attend the Savannah College of Art and Design in Savannah, Georgia.

Nick’s art teacher, Tricia Erickson, said his accomplishment is a rarity.

“I’ve had students win in the past, but never back-to-back,” said Erickson, who teaches AP art, drawing and photography classes, along with Kendall College of Art and Design dual enrollment courses. “We are all thrilled for him and it is a well-deserved honor. He worked diligently on this particular painting and it is truly a work of art. Nick is one of the most talented students to come through Northview.”

Rep. Amash couldn’t agree more.

“Nick Ensing is one of the most talented artists in our community,” Amash said. “His work is impressive and inspiring, and I’m pleased to be sending his art to the Capitol.

“ArtFest is one of my favorite events to host. It provides an opportunity for students to express their ideas and tell their stories, and it allows us to celebrate the work of our young artists.”

‘Spillin’ the Tea,’ by Ava Klug of Caledonia High School, was a Representative’s Choice winner in the Congressional Art Competition for Michigan’s 3rd district. Ava’s artwork will be displayed for one year in Rep. Amash’s congressional office (courtesy photo)

Representative’s Choice Winners and Honorable Mentions

Speaking of other talented young artists, “My Reality,” by Ashanti Clark of Kent Career Tech Center, and “Spillin’ the Tea,” by Ava Klug of Caledonia High School, were the Representative’s Choice winners. Those works will be displayed for one year in Amash’s congressional offices.

Pieces from Nia Mays (City High/Middle School), Eilena Lopez (Cedar Springs High School), Ivan Reynolds (Lowell High School) and Nina Lu (City High/Middle School) were named honorable mentions.

More than 650,000 high school students have participated in the annual art competition held in U.S. congressional districts since it began in 1982.

The Grand Rapids Art Museum, Kendall College of Art and Design of Ferris State University, Kent Intermediate School District and the Urban Institute for Contemporary Arts were sponsors and participated in the judging committee. In the 3rd district, 78 pieces were submitted and displayed at the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Library & Museum.

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.

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Cris Greer
Cris Greer
For more than three decades, Cris Greer has been a wordsmith, working in the fields of journalism, advertising and marketing. Much of the past decade, he helped grow the MLive Statewide High School Sports desk as a supervisor, editor and reporter, which included eight newspapers in Michigan and mlive.com. Cris also was a freelancer for The Grand Rapids Press, The Advance and On the Town magazine for many years. A good portion of his early career was spent building and managing the copywriting team in the advertising department at Meijer, Inc., where he oversaw copywriting for print ads, mailers, brochures, signage, several dozen in-house magazines per year and much more.


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