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Cole Congratulates 2021 Congressional Art Competition Winners

July 1, 2021
Press Release

Washington, D.C. – Congressman Tom Cole (OK-04) today announced the 2021 winners of the Congressional Art Competition for the Fourth District of Oklahoma. Throughout the artwork submissions period this spring, Cole’s office received more than 100 entries from high school artists. All entries were judged by Dr. Victor Youritzin, Professor Emeritus of Art History at the University of Oklahoma, who helped select the first-place winner and determine five finalists for the first ever “People’s Choice” contest.

Still Life in GraphiteAlayna Hill of Marlow has been named the first-place winner. The daughter of Steve and Kristen Hill, she is a homeschooled student and just completed the 10th grade. As part of the grand prize, Hill’s artwork will be on display in the Cannon Tunnel of the U.S. Capitol Building during the next year, along with other congressional district winners from across the nation. A reception for all top prize winners in the nation’s capital is expected to take place in the coming months. 

“I am delighted to congratulate Alayna Hill as this year’s Fourth District of Oklahoma winner of the Congressional Art Competition,” said Congressman Cole. “Her winning artwork is not only beautifully done, but the message behind it is a simple yet meaningful reflection on life. I am very impressed by her artistry and look forward seeing her masterpiece on display in Washington throughout the coming year.”

Hill titled her winning drawing Still Life in Graphite, and it was composed using medium 2B pencil.

"For me, this piece is representing something that feels normal in this crazy world. People have been making, and painting, still lifes for thousands of years. Just because life turned kind of upside down and right again, it doesn't mean normal life can't go on. It's not the most inspired piece I have made, but it doesn't need to be. It is a little bit of peace on paper," said Alayna Hill.

"We are thankful to God that Alayna’s God given talents have grown and are being recognized. Alayna excels in a variety of visual and performing arts, including renditions in pencil, acrylic, watercolor, and oil, in addition to her excellence in piano performance. This year’s table setting piece is no exception. The table is the quintessential gathering place of us all. While not always neat, clean, or organized, it is the place where we, as a community in this great nation, come together. The piece is rendered from a setting in our house. It is a reminder to us all that through the difficulties in gathering due to COVID-19, we are still a community. Great or small, poor or rich, we share this in common – that in all times we gather to break bread with one another," said Steve and Kristen Hill.

“People’s Choice” Winners Recognized in Norman Office

To determine the two runner-up winners, Cole’s office for the first time conducted a “People’s Choice” contest online. It was promoted through Cole’s social media channels with votes collected on an online form over the course of one week. Out of the more than 900 votes cast, artwork created by Joe Whitten and Alaura Drake received the most.

Kally, A Calico CatBoth students attend Southmoore High School, where they study art with Heather Bradbury. Whitten just completed the 11th grade, and Drake just completed the 12th grade. As the Fourth District’s “People’s Choice” winners, their artwork will be displayed in Cole’s Norman office during the next year.

“This year, I was delighted to ask constituents to help my office choose our first ever ‘People’s Choice’ winners,” said Cole. “I am pleased to congratulate Joe Whitten and Alaura Drake on taking home the titles. Their artwork was clearly favored by hundreds of people, and my staff and I look forward to admiring their colorful masterpieces on the walls of my Norman office over the next year.”

Joe Whitten received the most votes for his drawing titled Kally, a Calico Cat, and it was created with Prismacolor pencils.

“This is a portrait of my cat named Kally. She’s not the brightest cat in the world, but she does make a great portrait. Not to mention the nice pattern on her calico coat. I chose Prismacolor colored pencils because those are my favorite medium and brand to create a realistic art piece. I hope my beautiful cat can inspire others to make art,” said Joe Whitten.

“Joe is an amazing artist and is so talented. I have loved teaching him for several years and to watch him grow into an amazing artist. His love for cats shines in this piece. His skill of colored pencils is showcased as well. He has a great eye for hues and clues,” said Heather Bradbury.

Alaura Drake received the second-most votes for her artwork titled Daisy, and it was created using gouache and colored pencils.

“What inspired this artwork was the idea that many models, or even beauty figures, around the world are often drained mentally or emotionally because of all the pressure that is put on them from society. Being pressured to look a certain way and act a certain way definitely puts a lot of pressure on those in beauty industry and in general. This is why I made a hand holding a daisy with the life being sucked out of it— society has its hold on beauty, and even though society is in control they still judge or ‘suck’ the life from beautiful things,” said Alaura Drake.

Lily“Alaura is a talented artist I have had the honor to teach for three years. She excels in many mediums of art. Her art is from her imagination and has a style of her own. She showcases hands in many of her pieces. I love how her style shines in this piece. There is always hidden symbolism in her pieces, and I love the thought she puts into her pieces,” said Heather Bradbury.

Prizes Courtesy of Fowler Automotive and Southwest Airlines

This year, the Fourth District’s own Fowler Automotive generously sponsored prizes for all three winners of the Congressional Art Competition. The first-place winner will receive a $250 Visa gift card for expenses in Washington, D.C. when she comes to see her artwork on display. The “People’s Choice” winners will each receive $150 gift cards for purchasing more art supplies.

Courtesy of Southwest Airlines, the first-place winner and a guest will receive free airfare to Washington, D.C. for the national winners’ reception and award ceremony expected sometime this year. 

About the Congressional Art Contest

Each spring, the Congressional Institute sponsors An Artistic Discovery, a nationwide competition for high school students interested in the arts and looking for an opportunity to showcase their creativity. The annual contest recognizes and encourages artistic talent of young constituents across the nation, including those living in Oklahoma’s Fourth Congressional District.

High resolution photos are available HERE.

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