en Mikaela Herrick entered the Congressional Art Competition in April of this year, she had no idea where it would lead.
While finishing up her sophomore year at Clearwater Valley High School, 16-year-old Mikaela was faced with the task of deciding what she would paint for the contest. She chose a particularly difficult subject and began work on it. Not unlike many other paintings she had worked on over the years, this one had to be special, it had to really envelop her style and convey her love for the medium.
Like the majority of artists, Mikaela became interested in drawing and painting as a child. “I started slowly drawing and then I really liked the feeling I got, I was probably eight or nine years old,” said Mikaela. “Then I was introduced to painting by my aunt [Audrey Martin] who is an artist, and then I slowly started to paint more and I really enjoyed it. She was kinda like my art teacher; she did a lesson with me and we painted this bus on a beach, it’s hanging up in the bathroom.
“People started saying I was good at it so I continued on with painting and drawing,” added Mikaela, who said she began painting around the age of 12.
“Mikaela has always loved drawing and painting since she was able to hold a pencil,” said Kaeli, Mikaela’s mom. “Although her artwork was always sweet and perfect from her parents’ standpoint, it may have seemed average to others. It wasn’t until the last two years we realized how she has excelled. There really isn’t a painting that we were not impressed with although Mikaela is her own best critic. She will sometimes get frustrated with a painting and ask me, ‘What do you think? What should I do?’ and I say… ‘You’re on your own girl. I can’t draw a stick person!’”
When her freshman art teacher Mary Charley approached her regarding the art contest, Mikaela decided to enter it and filled out the application. “She introduced it to the whole class but I was the only one who actually followed through and entered the contest. The Lewiston office told my mom that I was the first one in the area to even enter the contest,” added Mikaela.
The Congressional Art Competition began in 1982 to provide an opportunity for members of Congress to encourage and recognize the artistic talents of their young constituents. Since then, more than 650,000 high school students have been involved with the nationwide competition, according to the Congressional Art Competition at https://labrador.house.gov/art-competition1/.)
The piece she settled on was inspired by a moose painting she had seen which later led to some questions regarding the originality of her work. “I got an email saying someone said I copied the painting and I needed to show originality of the painting.” Luckily, Mikaela had taken pictures during the progression of painting her piece and was able to provide the proof the judges needed that she did in fact create it herself.
Mikaela placed 4th in the competition of about 30 entries in the district. “The #1 pick got to go to Washington, D.C.; there’s a hallway of art at one of the congressman buildings and the winner got to have their painting displayed there and go visit.”
While her efforts didn’t generate a trip to Washington, her painting was put in the Lewiston Congressman office of Raul Labrador, and Mikaela went to meet him last month. “We just talked about my painting and he said he really enjoyed it, and then he talked about what I’d like to do in the future as far as going to college and stuff. He’s a really nice guy and very easy to talk to,” added Mikaela.
Picking a career after college is a topic of conversation on many high school students’ minds, and Mikaela says it’s something she’s given a lot of thought to, since her freshman year. “I want to be able to look into a lot of different things and have time to do that, so I’m spacing it out over the years I’m in high school. It’s really hard though because I’m not really interested in most of the bigger careers like being a lawyer or a nurse or something. I’ve thought about interior design or working in the film or photography industry.”
Mikaela hopes her involvement with art in high school will eventually lead to an art scholarship and a quality college education.
Besides the career opportunities her talent is providing, Mikaela just enjoys painting. “When I start painting, I don’t focus on anything else around me besides the actual painting, so if I want to get my mind off of something, I just paint, I don’t worry about anything except what I’m painting.”
She is currently working on a grizzly bear for a friend who just went off to the University of Montana at Missoula. “Kamm Mangun wants to hang it up in his dorm, it’s the school mascot,” added Mikaela. “I ran into a few difficulties with the grizzly, and needed to research the animal so I could figure out how to paint it.”
“Mikaela takes pleasure in giving and selling her artwork so we mostly just have pictures of them,” said Kaeli. “We thought she might keep the moose painting, but her heart is sharing her talent so others can enjoy it.
“The positive feedback that Mikaela has received from her paintings in the past few years has helped tremendously build her confidence,” said Kaeli. “One of the biggest confidence boosters is being asked to donate her time to paint for school activities. She has painted for the 2016 and 2017 Prom; she painted the CV on the football field for the last three years, and has been involved with fundraisers, dances, and floats. We look forward to seeing what she does in the future with her talent.”
Mikaela’s future aspirations include painting a ram on the announcement box in the gym and possibly holding an art show next year with other artists, and yes, she plans to enter the contest again next year.