Each spring, the Congressional Art Competition honors high school artists nationwide, selecting visual art pieces for recognition from each congressional district. Last week, Sacred Heart Preparatory (SHP) junior Kaia Li was awarded third place in the competition in the 18th congressional district represented by Congresswoman Anna Eshoo, which includes parts of San Mateo, Santa Clara, and Santa Cruz counties.
Li’s acrylic painting, titled, “My Father,” was completed last semester when Li was a sophomore in Peggy O’Leary’s studio art course. The painting depicts Li’s father playing soccer in the alleys of Shanghai, China, where he grew up. “I think that made my painting more interesting and special for both of us,” said Li (SHP ’22).
“I chose a picture of him playing soccer because that’s probably the thing he is most passionate about. Despite working during the week, he always finds time every other night to play soccer with his friends.”
The painting was completed as part of a final project in the class; students were asked to portray someone important to them, in response to the portrait painter Jordan Casteel's exhibit seen at the nearby Cantor Center on a field trip. Li says she chose her father as the subject because she had already drawn her mother for a charcoal project in the same course.
“Kaia is an extremely talented young artist who goes above and beyond with every single assignment,” said O’Leary, SHP studio art teacher. “Kaia also has ambitions as a world-class swimmer, and our shelter-in-place has to have been extremely hard on her. She really deserves this special recognition.”
As quarantine began and her swim schedule was interrupted, Li worried her “years of hard work might come to a stop right here.” But as time passed, she realized she was not alone and had “plenty of chances in the future.”
While Li completed the competition art piece before remote learning began, “Ms. O’Leary gave us many more interesting projects to keep us occupied. Those projects really took my mind off of worrying about swimming,” said Li. During shelter-in-place, she also began keeping a food-drawing journal.
“Getting third is very exciting. At first when my family received the mail, we were actually kind of scared, with the envelope saying, ‘House of Representatives.’ However, when we opened it, I remembered submitting an entry. I am so honored to receive this award.”