Barnum student's artwork to hang in US Capitol

A watercolor created by Olivia Dammer was selected as the winning entry for Minnesota's 8th Congressional District in the annual Congressional Art Competition.

Watercolor featuring eight scenes involving water, including shorelines and waterfalls.
Barnum High School junior Olivia Dammer's piece titled "Postcards from the North" won the 2023 Congressional Art Competition for Minnesota's 8th Congressional District. It will hang in the U.S. Capitol for one year.
Contributed / Rep. Pete Stauber's office

BARNUM — With eight scenes representing Minnesota's connections to water, a watercolor created by 17-year-old Olivia Dammer will be displayed in the U.S. Capitol for one year.

Dammer, a junior at Barnum High School, was selected as Minnesota's 8th District winner in the Congressional Art Competition, Rep. Pete Stauber's office announced May 4. The contest is held in congressional districts nationwide and is sponsored by the Congressional Institute.

Young woman stands next to a tree
Olivia Dammer.
Contributed / Olivia Dammer

The piece, titled "Postcards from the North," features a moose standing in a lake, two depictions of shorelines, a waterfall, Duluth's Aerial Lift Bridge, a campsite next to a lake, Split Rock Lighthouse and a view of Lake Superior from atop a hill. Each scene holds a special memory for Dammer, such as time spent visiting the beach in Superior with her family and trips to Gooseberry Falls with friends.

"I kind of wanted to go back to what Minnesota represents. … It shows how the land, animals and people are impacted by our lakes and how they are a great resource for us," she said.

The contest was open to students throughout the 8th Congressional District. A panel of artists who live in the district evaluated the entries and selected the winner, according to the U.S. House of Representatives website.


Dammer's piece will join winning entries from congressional districts nationwide. She will also attend an awards ceremony in Washington, D.C.

"Congratulations Olivia on your winning work of art, and thank you to all of the very talented students who participated in this year's Congressional Art Competition. I would like to thank all the art teachers that instruct and encourage students to participate in this annual contest," Stauber, R-Hermantown, said in a news release. "I am always so incredibly proud of the artistic talent coming out of northern Minnesota. I look forward to seeing this beautiful scene displayed in the halls of Congress every time I walk to the Capitol to vote."

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Dammer said she was grabbing a bite to eat with her mom when she got the call she won. Earlier that same day, she found out she did not win a different art contest, and upon hearing the news about the 8th District's Congressional Art Competition, she started to cry.

Winning the contest is special to Dammer, she said.

"It means a lot to me. It means I’m improving in my art and also that people actually care about my art," she said.

Dammer hopes to pursue a career in art after high school. She doesn't have a preferred medium yet, but said her favorites are acrylic, watercolor and spray paint.

Jen Zettel-Vandenhouten is the regional editor for Duluth Media Group, overseeing the Cloquet Pine Journal and the Superior Telegram.
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