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An Artist’s Discovery

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This guest post from Illinois high schooler Hannah Munson originally appeared in the July 2014 edition of our onboard magazine, Spirit.  Southwest Airlines has proudly supported the Congressional Art Competition for 13 consecutive years.  In 2014, 370 congressional offices participated in the Congressional Art Competition.  Southwest donated complimentary airfare to more than 350 students to travel to Washington, D.C. to see their award-winning artwork hang in the Capitol.  Additionally, Southwest Airlines donated airfare for guardian guests to accompany the students to the Capitol, totaling more than 700 roundtrip ticket donations. Winning students who live in cities without convenient service to D.C. or the surrounding area were awarded alternate grand prizes.  Hannah Munson created her winning work (above) with pencil.

For as long as I can remember, I have doodled and drawn in my notebooks. I enjoyed it but never considered myself an “artist.” That changed a few years ago, thanks to my high school art teacher. She encouraged me to challenge myself artistically and helped me see the potential in my art. Later, she continued to cheer me on and asked me to submit my work for consideration in the Congressional Art Competition, a nationwide event sponsored by the Alexandria, Virginia–based Congressional Institute. High school students from participating districts across the country enter for the chance to have their artwork placed within our nation’s Capitol for an entire year.

I had entered contests before, but win­ning this one would come with a bonus: two roundtrip tickets to Washington, D.C. (courtesy of Southwest Airlines), to attend the national reception and view the win­ning artwork on display in the Capitol. In 2013, Southwest supported a record 369 district competitions in this way.

Alongside many other talented artists, I submitted my work. I was elated and proud that my piece titled “A Hero’s Stolen Heart” was selected as my district’s first-place winner and would hang on the walls of our nation’s most treasured building.

Traveling to the national capital to represent the 16th Congressional District of Illinois at the competition was an exciting experience unlike anything I’d ever done. My dad and I attended the reception together and enjoyed all that Washington, D.C., has to offer. The experi­ences of visiting the city for the first time; meeting my congressman, Rep. Adam Kinzinger; and seeing my work displayed in the Cannon Tunnel, which connects the Cannon House Office Building to the Capitol, were all amazing.

Winning the Congressional Art Competition was a turning point for me: It solidified my desire and confidence to pursue my passion for the arts. My goal is to use my creative talents to help others through art therapy.

On behalf of aspiring artists everywhere, thank you to all who support the Congressional Art Competition. Because of you, my future—like my canvas—is open to endless possibilities!