ROCK ISLAND, Illinois (Quad-City Times) — Rock Island High School student Riley Jones has won first place in the annual Congressional Art Competition for her digital artwork titled, “Black Pride.”
The contest, hosted by U.S. Rep. Cheri Bustos, D-Moline, for the 17th District, is a national high school art competition sponsored by the U.S. House of Representatives that began in 1982. The first-place artwork from each House District will be displayed in the Cannon Tunnel of the U.S. Capitol Building in Washington, D.C., for the next year.
Riley, 16, is a sophomore and a member of the National Honor Society. Though she’s been interested in art since she was a young child, she became more focused beginning in the sixth grade.
“I’ve been trying to improve ever since,” she said. “I take art classes at the high school and did in junior high, but I’ve mostly learned through self-taught lessons on the Internet.”
She said she was surprised to hear she won first place in the art competition.
“I did not think I was going to win,” she said. “I saw the other student submissions, and they were also incredible.”
Riley is the daughter of Jerry and Kathy Jones. Jerry is executive director of the Martin Luther King Center, 630 9th St., Rock Island.
“Riley had the joy of telling me she won, and she did so in such a way that it was hardly believable,” Jerry said. “But once it sunk in — pure elation. I’m just so proud of her and so impressed.”
Riley also won two airplane tickets to Washington to see her artwork on display. Jerry said they would buy two more tickets so that both parents and Riley’s older brother, Peyton, 18, could go as well.
Riley said her artwork, “Black Pride” was inspired by the Black Lives Matter movement.
“I wanted to do my part for the movement because I couldn’t get out there physically because of the pandemic,” she said. “I used what I know and drew something to put my voice out there and how I felt about it.”
Bustos said in a statement that she was impressed by the “incredible talent on display” during the competition each year.
“I’d like to congratulate this year’s winner, Riley Jones, and all of the students who participated in this year’s contest on a job well done,” Bustos said. “It’s an honor to represent such a creative group in Congress, and I hope this competition fueled their passion for the arts — especially during this difficult past year. I look forward to proudly displaying their incredible artwork in each of my offices and seeing Riley’s work in the halls of the Capitol on my way to the House floor for votes.”
Rock Island High School Principal Jeff Whitaker also congratulated Riley.
“Riley is an incredibly talented student, and we are extremely proud of her,” Whitaker said. “This is a tremendous honor, and we are excited for her and her family.”
Dr. Reginald Lawrence, superintendent for the Rock Island-Milan School District, said the entire school district was “extremely proud” of Riley.
“Her art submission titled ‘Black Pride,’ is an amazing piece that is powerful and speaks volumes regarding the current times that we live in,” Lawrence said. “It evoked in me both a feeling of emotion and a sense of pride knowing that our young artists like Riley are in tune with themselves and to what matters in the world. Her recognition is very well deserved.”
The four runners-up in the art competition are Brianna Benassi from Pekin Community High School, whose artwork will be displayed in Bustos’ Washington, D.C. office; Jessica Martinez from Kewanee High School, whose artwork will be displayed in Bustos’ Rock Island office; Sage Smith from Pekin Community High School, whose artwork will be displayed in Bustos’ Peoria office; and Kortney Kudronowicz from Scales Mound High School, whose artwork will be displayed in Bustos’ Rockford office.
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