Congressional competition takes Brunswick student's art to Washington

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BRUNSWICK — A high school student will have her art displayed on the national stage this year, after winning the 2018 Congressional Art Competition for Maine’s 1st District.

On Feb. 7, U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree, D-Maine, announced that Galen Gaze, a senior at Brunswick High School, had won the annual competition with a piece titled “Toucanana.”

Four other students from Maine’s 1st District were also recognized: first runner-up Benjamin Folsom of Falmouth High School, second runner-up Rachel Walton of Yarmouth High School, and honorable mentions Corilie Green of Freeport High School and Chelsea Zhao of Falmouth High School.

A jury put together by the Maine Arts Commission and Maine College of Art selected the state’s winners from top finishers in the regional Scholastic Art Competition.

As the district winner, Gaze will have her art hung in the U.S. Capitol for a year, as part of a special exhibit featuring the winning pieces from every district in the country. All winners and runner-ups from both of Maine’s congressional districts will also have their art displayed in the State Capitol in late April, followed by a reception at The Blaine House. 

Gaze and the other district winners will travel to Washington, D.C., in June for an opening ceremony.

In addition, the Maine College of Art offers winning high school seniors a scholarship to its Bachelor of Fine Arts Program; younger students receive a scholarship to its PreCollege program. 

Gaze said she appreciates MECA’s scholarship and their help in making the awards possible, but is primarily interested in attending college out of state.

She has already been accepted to Otis College of Art and Design in Los Angeles, where she attended a pre-college program, and has also applied to Rochester Institute of Technology in New York. She hopes to major in illustration. 

“I am looking at colleges outside of Maine and New England because I want to see as much of the country as I can and experience more cultural and ethnic diversity,” Gaze said.

The inspiration for “Toucanana,” a piece depicting a toucan with a banana for a beak, came during Gaze’s junior year when she heard about another art class’ assignment to pair an animate and an inanimate object together to form a creature.

“I was at home, walking around my house, and I was looking at different objects and trying to pair them together,” she said. “I really love birds; I instantly thought of a toucan and then I made the connection between the banana (and thought) the banana could be a really cool beak for the bird.”

Another one of Gaze’s pieces, titled “Innocence is Bliss,” which also deals with birds, earned an honorable mention. Gaze said she created that piece while enrolled in the pre-college program at Otis College of Art and Design.

She added she didn’t expect to win the competition, and had seen other students go through the process in the past. A call from Pingree’s office to her school’s art room ahead of the formal notification tipped her off. 

“One of my friends answered the phone and said, ‘It’s from Congresswoman Chellie Pingree,’ so I kind of got a hint,” Gaze said. “I got tipped off in the beginning that something was coming, but when it was confirmed I was really excited.” 

Pingree said all of the Maine student entries were impressive, as in year’s past. 

“Galen’s unique and creative drawing will certainly catch people’s eyes when it is on display at the Capitol. My congratulations to her and all the top finishers of this year’s competition—everyone’s work was wonderful,” Pingree said. “My thanks to the Maine Arts Commission for their continued role in supporting this great competition.”

Pingree also reached out to Gaze personally after the outcome was announced, which Gaze said meant a lot.

“I got a call from Ms. Pingree herself, actually,” Gaze said. “I really appreciated her taking the time out of her day to call and congratulate me, that was really special.”

Elizabeth Clemente can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 100 or eclemente@theforecaster.net. Follow Elizabeth on Twitter @epclemente

Galen Gaze, 18, a senior at Brunswick High School, is the winner of the 2018 Congressional Art Competition for Maine’s 1st District.

“Toucanana,” by Brunswick High School senior Galen Gaze, will hang in the U.S. Capitol for a year as a winner of the 2018 Congressional Art Competition.

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