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Moose Lake student's art earns U.S. Capitol honor

Moose Lake High School senior Charis Blacklock plans to attend the University of Minnesota Duluth next year to study the fine arts. Photo courtesy of Craig Blacklock1 / 2
CLICK PHOTO TO ENLARGE: Moose Lake High School senior Charis Blacklock won the 8th Congressional District Art Competition with her watercolor painting "Birds Nest." Photo courtesy of Craig Blacklock2 / 2

Moose Lake High School senior Charis Blacklock won an art competition that will put her watercolor painting titled "Bird's Nest" on the wall of the U.S. Capitol for a year.

Blacklock submitted her portrait into the 2019 Congressional Art Competition, a national competition in its 38th year where students submit their art to their U.S. representative's office.

The winning student of each district receives a free trip to Washington, D.C., where they'll see their artwork hanging in the U.S. Capitol's Cannon Tunnel. Almost every congressional district participates in the competition.

Before Blacklock got into painting with watercolors and oil paints she had been drawing for most of her life. Her art teacher, Tracy Kill, who she's had since eighth grade, encouraged Blacklock and a few other students to participate in the competition.

Blacklock was the only one to agree. So she painted an 18-by-18-inch portrait of a girl with leaves in her hair and a bird on her shoulder.

"I wanted to do a portrait and I've always liked adding other things to drawings," Blacklock said. "I like painting leaves and then I thought birds would be cool; they have interesting texture. I tried adding as much different stuff to make it stand out."

Congressman Pete Stauber announced May 1 that Blacklock's submissission was selected as the winner.

"Each piece of artwork submitted for this competition was incredibly impressive, making choosing a winner a tough decision for our judges," Stauber said in a press release. "I am so proud of the talent coming out of Minnesota's 8th Congressional District. A huge congratulations to Charis — I cannot wait to see your talent on display in the U.S. Capitol."

Blacklock learned her artwork was chosen after school one day when her excited teacher was almost bursting with the news.

"Charis was still here for track and I come flying out of the room screaming," Kill said. "I was running down the hall because she was on her way out for track and I thought, 'I've got to catch her.'"

"I think she was probably more excited than I was," Blacklock said.

Kill had helped students compete in the competition a few different times prior, but none of those students had ever won before.

She likes that the competition gives students the opportunity to see what other students are creating all around the country during their free trip to Washington D.C. Blacklock will travel to the country's capitol at the end of June with a guest — probably her mother, she said — for an award reception and a tour of the capitol.

Although Kill said Blacklock can produce work pretty fast, she's very concise in her art.

"She's very naturally gifted and she's got great skill sets and creativity," Kill said. "She takes pride in her work."

Andee Erickson

Andee Erickson has been a reporter with the Pine Journal since November 2018. She studied journalism and geography at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire, while working at the Leader-Telegram newspaper on weekends. She graduated in 2018. Erickson's from southern Minnesota, but started viewing the north as home after interning for the Duluth News Tribune in the summer of 2017.