SOUTH BRUNSWICK: SBHS student wins 12th District Congressional Art Competition

A South Brunswick Township High School student will have her artwork displayed in the U.S. Capitol.

By Jennifer Kohlhepp, Special Writer
A South Brunswick Township High School student will have her artwork displayed in the U.S. Capitol.
   Senior Jody Friedman earned the honor by winning the 2013 New Jersey 12th District Congressional Art Competition held earlier this year by U.S. Rep. Rush Holt. The annual competition showcases exceptional art pieces created by high school students.
   ”I’m really proud of myself,” Ms. Friedman said. “I never thought of my art that way before.”
   Ms. Friedman, who took months to complete her detailed entry for the competition, said she spends so much time doing the work that she rarely has time to reflect on it.
   ”Winning the competition has reinforced my interest and passion in art,” she said. “It’s a nice motivation to have.”
   Ms. Friedman took first place overall in this year’s competition, which garnered more than 100 entries from students in 22 schools across Central Jersey.
   She won with a drawing of her mom’s denim jacket titled, “Well-Worn.”
   Two fellow SBHS students were also among the top three finishers in the competition.
   Senior Rachelleanne Galang took second place overall with her collage, “Self Portrait Under Cover,” and Katarina Ronquillo, also a senior, earned third place overall for her drawing “Friendship is Contagious.”
   Rep. Holt visited SBHS on June 3 to congratulate all three top finishers and to give recognition to the school’s top-ranking performance in the 2013 competition.
   ”After all was said and done, the first three finishers were from South Brunswick High School,” Holt said. “I think that’s pretty special.”
   Rep. Holt said the school has an outstanding art program, and often finishes very well in the competition.
   ”This is the first time it’s taken first, second and third place,” he said. “I don’t think any other school has done that before.”
   Art teacher Diane Belnay said 19 South Brunswick Township High School students participated in the competition this year, with student Emily Charniga also winning first place in the computer-generated art category with “She Told Me To Go Home and Paint My Face,” and student Anna Rose Waniako earning third place in the painting category for “Day Dreamin.”
   Ms. Belnay said all six high school art teachers work together to create a wonderful art education experience for their students.
   ”It’s not just the high school program,” she said. “The whole district has a wonderful art program, and we have a wonderful superintendent who supports us.”
   Ms. Belnay also thanked the South Brunswick community for its continuing support of the arts.
   ”Each year we have a district art show in the gym for kindergarten through high school, and the community is very supportive. The gym is packed,” she said.
   Like many school districts in New Jersey, Ms. Belnay said hers struggles with art education funding.
   ”We’re happy, but we wish we could do more,” she said, adding that the arts help students develop discipline, perception, and problem solving skills, as well as creativity.
   Rep. Holt echoed her sentiments.
   ”Arts aren’t just an add-on,” he said. “They are part of the education of the whole individual. Research demonstrates that work in the arts improves students’ self-esteem, improves their work ethic, and improves their performance in other academic subjects.”
   Since winning his seat in 1999, Holt has joined other members of the U.S. House of Representatives to recognize the creativity of high school students through the nationwide Congressional Art Competition.
   The competition has been running since 1982, he said.
   After hundreds of competitions are held in almost all of the 435 congressional districts, the top-placed artwork is displayed in the halls of the U.S. Capitol.
   Ms. Friedman will travel to Washington, D.C. on June 26 to see her artwork on display and to participate in a ceremony that will honor all of the winners from across the nation.
   Ms. Galang, Ms. Ronquillo and other second and third place winners from New Jersey will have their pieces exhibited in Holt’s offices in Washington, D.C. and West Windsor for the rest of the year.