Kelon Vaughan Wins 2023 Contest
Thomasville High School junior Kelon Vaughan’s graphite drawing Southern Gothic circa 1884 will bring a piece of Southwest Georgia to the U.S. Capitol, where it will be on display for a year starting this summer. On Saturday, April 29, Vaughn won first place for the Second Congressional District of Georgia in the 42nd annual Congressional Art Competition.
Vaughan, a student of Ashley Ivey-Jackson at Thomasville High, received his award from U.S. Rep. Sanford Bishop, D-Albany, at the district awards ceremony Saturday morning at the Albany Museum of Art.
Vaughan, who plans to study advertising and graphic art at Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD), said he was “very happy” to win and thanked Congressman Bishop and those involved in the competition for the opportunity. “Thank you to everyone for this,” he said.
“We have some of the best, brightest, and most creative young people anywhere in the world, and I’m just proud to showcase their talents,” the congressman said. “It’s important that we encourage and that we nurture those God-given talents like art, the ability to create a kind of cultural memorial, if you will, through painting, through sculpture, through photography that really captures the emotions and the history of the culture of our times. I think that’s a very, very valuable opportunity and I want to support it. I want to nurture these young people in their aspirations of being able to do that throughout their lives.”
The AMA partners with Bishop’s office by providing the winning artist and a parent with hotel accommodations near the Washington, D.C., location of the national awards ceremony, which will be conducted later this year. Airfare for the winning student and a parent is provided by Southwest Airlines. The AMA also offers a $250 purchase price for the winning artwork.
“It is always inspiring to see the original, high-quality work of our young artists from Southwest Georgia,” AMA Executive Director Andrew J. Wulf, Ph.D., said. “Each and every year there is a surprising array of diverse voices with impressive talent. The AMA is honored to host this award ceremony with Rep. Sanford Bishop, celebrating and supporting the work of this next generation of creatives.”
In addition to Vaughan, three students from the Second District were recognized for their artwork. Dougherty High School junior Chancie Brown won second place for The Guys, a graphite on paper drawing. Madelin Vasquez, also a Dougherty High junior, received third place for her mixed media artwork The Agony. Both are art students of Samantha Fields. Honorable mention went to Thomasville High School sophomore Ella Kate Carroll, also a student of Ivey-Jackson, for her acrylic painting Elevator Jazz.
Vaughan’s artwork draws upon the cultural history that Congressman Bishop referenced.
“That’s the Paxton House,” he said. “It was constructed in 1884 by James W. Paxton, and I really wanted to draw it because I’m enthralled with Victorian and Gothic architecture. It’s one of only two Gothic mansions left in the area, in South Georgia.”
The artist said that he has been drawing “pretty much my whole life,” and started taking art classes three or four years ago.
He said he is most comfortable with landscapes. “I did another drawing of the big oak in downtown Thomasville,” he said. “I definitely prefer doing landscapes to portraits.”
As he looks to pursue a double major at SCAD, Vaughan said he is exploring other media. “I started out with graphite and I’m comfortable with graphite,” he said, “but I’m trying to push myself to paint more and do more mediums like charcoal.”
Sponsored by the Congressional Institute since 2009, the competition celebrates the artistic achievements of the nation’s high school students. In 2022, 421 of the 435 congressional districts participated in the program.
The winning artwork from each participating district is displayed for a year in the Cannon Tunnel, a heavily traveled access point between the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Capitol.
“The winner gets to have his or her art on display in the Cannon Tunnel, which is a major corridor from the House office buildings to the Capitol. Some 80,000 people go through there every year, both visitors and, of course, members of Congress, who go back and forth through there every day to cast our votes or debate,” Bishop said. “It’s a very special opportunity and it gives me great pride to be able to walk through there and show visitors that I may be escorting to or from the floor that this artwork, this artist is from the Second Congressional District of Georgia.”
Since its inception in 1982, the Congressional Art Competition has seen participation by more than 650,000 high school students across the United States.
Bishop thanked the AMA for participating in the program. “That is a great tribute to the community and the visitors to the community for supporting the arts,” he said.
- Steve Hinton & Friends … From the Beginning is in the Haley, East, McCormack, and Hodges Galleries April 20-Aug 12, 2023.
- Escape Plan, Installation by Elinor Saragoussi is in the West Gallery.
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