Area students recognized in the 2020 Congressional Art Competition

Congressman Warren Davidson, representing Ohio’s 8th District, recently announced the winners of the 2020 Congressional Art Competition “An Artistic Discovery.”

The winners were announced online this year and will be part of a virtual exhibition at the Middletown Arts Center. Abigail McDonnell of Lakota West High School was named as the grand-prize winner for her work, “Happiness.”

“The Middletown Arts Center is excited to once again be hosting the Congressional Art Competition with the support of Cincinnati State Middletown Campus. The U.S. House of Representatives’ Congressional Arts Caucus coordinates an annual art competition for high school students. This competition provides a unique opportunity to recognize the rich artistic talents of high school students throughout the nation,” said Kate Dykes, executive director of the Middletown Arts Center.

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Middletown Arts Center is hosting the virtual exhibition on the center's website at, as well as on its YouTube channel and social media platforms.

The winners were first revealed on April 4, and the virtual exhibition will remain on the Middletown Art Center’s website through the end of May. “During this time of social distancing and isolation, we are really thrilled to have the opportunity to exhibit this competition virtually and provide friends and family the chance to celebrate their favorite artist’s achievements, especially when they could not connect physically,” said Dykes.

The prestigious competition highlights the talents of high school students in Ohio’s 8th Congressional District. With the contest, high school students across the country have the opportunity each spring to submit visual artwork to their congressional office for consideration in the competition.

“Anytime a high school student is given an opportunity to exhibit their work it’s a wonderful vehicle to express themselves. But being part of a larger exhibit connects you with an arts community, and it builds self-confidence in reaching a goal. It gives peers, teachers, and family a chance to celebrate your accomplishments. It’s also a great to include on college and scholarship applications,” said Dykes.

Students from Middletown High School, Troy High School, Lakota East High School, Lakota West High School and Emmanuel Christian Academy participated in the competition. Students entered work in three categories – Photography, All Other Permissible Media, and Scenes from Ohio’s 8th District.

There were 169 entries from student artists, including, 101 in the Photography category, 40 in the All Other Media category and 28 entries in the Scenes from Ohio’s 8th District category. In 2019, more than 300 students submitted work. Entries were down this year due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

“These are very driven and talented students. They are definitely applying advanced skills and techniques in their work and it shows,” Dykes said.

Photography was heavily represented this year, along with some beautiful photos in the Scenes from Ohio’s 8th District category of Ohio’s historic buildings.

“All of the winning works are amazing. One piece that grabs my attention, is ‘Drowning In Plastic’ by Ella Chaffee. I love her use of light to capture the plastic,” Dykes said.

The grand-prize winning artwork — Abigail McDonnell’s “Happiness” — will represent the 8th District in Washington, D.C., and it will be on display at the U.S. Capitol as part of a year-long exhibit. All of the winners and honorable mentions were announced on the Middletown Arts Center’s website and social media platforms and are noted within the exhibition itself.

Congressman Davidson also aired a video announcement, congratulating the students.


Here are the winners of the 2020 competition:

Grand prize winner: Abigail McDonnell of Lakota West for "Happiness"

1st Place Photography: Tanner Gagliardo, Lakota East for "Mama Bear Stare"

2nd Place Photography: Austin Huff, Lakota West for "Other Side"

3rd Place Photography: Tyler Kovac, Lakota West for "Fabula Rosa"

1st Place All Other Media: Abigail McDonnell, Lakota West for "Happiness"

2nd Place All Other Media: Alexandra Fernholz, Lakota East for "The Art of Distraction"

3rd Place All Other Media: Ella Chaffee, Lakota West for "Drowning in Plastic"

Winners in the Scenes from Ohio’s 8th District category are:

• Emrie Adelhart, Lakota East for “Court House”

• Ella Chaffee, Lakota West for “Ruins”

• Rose Labib, Lakota West for “A Church”

• Braden Meyer, Lakota West for “Billy Yank Statue”

• Emma Schroeder, Lakota West for “Muhlhauser Barn”

• Cole Stafford, Lakota West for “The Federalist”

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