VU student's dramatic painting featured in national art exhibit on Capitol Hill

VU student's dramatic painting featured in national art exhibit on Capitol Hill

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October 27, 2020

October 27, 2020

VINCENNES, Ind. – A stunning, eye-catching painting is currently on display in an iconic place where U.S. history is made. 

Capitol Hill is where you can find an oil painting by Vincennes University freshman Lydia Higgins on display to the delight of lawmakers and other passersby in Washington D.C.

Her winning artwork titled “War Paints” is hanging in a pedestrian walkway connecting the U.S. Capitol with the oldest House office building.

Artwork of winners from congressional districts throughout the United States lines the Cannon Tunnel connecting the Capitol with the Cannon House Office Building.

Every year, the Congressional Institute sponsors for students a nationwide visual art competition to recognize and encourage artistic talent in the United States and each congressional district.

Higgins won first place in the 2020 Congressional Art Competition for the Illinois 15th Congressional District represented by U.S. Congressman John Shimkus. 

When Higgins received the phone call notifying her that she won, her excitement bubbled over.

“So many people can enter this contest, and it’s a huge district,” she said. “I was blown away when I got the call.”

“War Paints” depicts a girl covered in paint with a butterfly over her mouth. The paint is symbolic of the heartache and pain people are experiencing. The butterfly represents beauty in the midst of the many challenges her generation is facing including the Covid-19 coronavirus and mental illness.

"Lydia's technique certainly stood out in her piece,” Shimkus said in a press release. 

Higgins, an elementary education major from Lawrenceville, Illinois, spent around a month painting the winning piece.

“There’s so much going on in the world,” she said. “There’s Covid. Lots of people are dealing with mental illness, especially in my generation. So many people are having to deal with tough issues at such a younger age. The butterfly represents hope, freedom, and what we are working towards especially now during Covid."

Art is essential. We need it now more than ever. It enriches our lives, relieves stress, helps shape ideas, and transports us to different spaces.

As a future elementary teacher, Higgins plans to incorporate art into her classroom. She is learning how to integrate art into daily classroom instruction in an Art for the Elementary Teacher course she is currently taking. 

Higgins admits it breaks her heart that art education is being eliminated or decreased in many K-12 schools. 

“Art is such an important part of the learning process and being creative,” she said.

She helps fulfill her passion and creativity by encouraging art among younger students. Before Covid-19, she taught art to 4H students. 

Covid-19 also kept Higgins from traveling to Washington D.C. to attend a special ceremony celebrating the winners of the congressional art competition. Winners of the art contest receive airline tickets to attend a reception and unveiling of the exhibit. Unfortunately, the event is not being held this year due to Covid-19. 

Higgins hopes to make a trip next year to see her painting on display in a famous place.

“I would enjoy getting to see it,” she said. “It’s not the end of the world if I don’t get to see it. It’s still up there, but I would love to get to see it.”

In 2018, her “Portrait” entry was an honorable mention selection in the annual congressional competition. It was on display in one of the congressman’s Illinois district offices.