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Massena Central sophomore wins Congressional Art Competition

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MASSENA - When she was a student in Chateaugay, Cashlynn Jaggers was asked to dress up a wall at the school with a mural.

“I worked on that for a while,” she said.

Now, the Massena Central High School sophomore’s artwork will be dressing up another wall - in the United States Capitol in Washington, D.C.

Ms. Jaggers was named the New York 21st Congressional District winner of the 2014 Congressional Art Competition, an honor announced by Rep. William L. Owens, D-Plattsburgh, who represents the district in Congress.

Her piece, “Papa’s Farm,” will hang in the United States Capitol Building for a year, representing the 21st Congressional District. She will also be flown to Washington, D.C. to attend a winner’s reception June 26 in the Capitol Visitors Center.

The barn, which she painted using a photograph as reference, was a way to show part of what makes the north country special, she said.

“It brings back childhood memories,” Ms. Jaggers said.

She said she has been working on art “more seriously” since she was 9 years old and had entered two art shows while a student at Chateaugay, as well as a visual art show last year.

“My dad is pretty good at art,” she said.

She was encouraged by Massena art teacher Chad Simpson to submit a piece for this year’s Congressional Art Competition.

“I try to keep my eyes open” for opportunities that will allow students to showcase their art, Mr. Simpson said. “I picked a couple who I thought were pretty strong and I know had a good chance. Cashlynn has gotten progressively better. Her skill set is wonderful. I thought that she had a very good chance.”

Using India ink and watercolor, Ms. Jaggers said “Papa’s Farm” took her about two weeks to complete and was then sent in for consideration in the contest. She said she watered down the black India ink and then used watercolor to cast a special red on the barn.

“The whole thing was done with a paint brush,” Mr. Simpson said.

That effort impressed judges, and Mr. Owens announced this week that she had won for his 21st Congressional District.

“The art submissions we received this year showed impressive skill and commitment from many young artists in our region,” he said in a release announcing Ms. Jaggers’s win. “Cashlynn’s work stood out among the many compelling submissions we reviewed and I look forward to seeing it displayed in the Capitol later this year.”

Mr. Simpson got the call notifying him that Ms. Jaggers was the winner for the 1st Congressional District.

“I got a call from Washington. After I calmed myself down, I found her in the hallway,” he said.

“He came and found me,” Ms. Jaggers said. “I’m pretty honored.”

Mr. Simpson said it’s quite an accomplishment to receive this type of recognition, but he’s not surprised her artwork was selected as the winner.

“I am so proud of Cashlynn. This unique accomplishment speaks highly of her talent and abilities. I am excited that she has been awarded this opportunity to share her artistic vision and represent her home region. This looks good on her college resume,” he said.

Ms. Jaggers said scenes like “Papa’s Farm” are among her favorites to work with, but she’s branching out into other areas. She also prefers to mainly work with watercolor and inks.

“I do a lot of animals. I’ve been trying to explore more with portrait,” she said.

One work in progress right now is based on a picture of her with her grandmother. She’s using charcoal and the initial work already makes it look life-like.

Down the road, she said, she plans to take International Baccalaureate art next year.

“I would like to be an art teacher,” Ms. Jaggers said.

She still has her original “Papa’s Farm,” but not for long. Mr. Simpson said they have to frame it so it’s ready to hang for a year in the Capitol Visitors Center, and it must be shipped by the end of May.

Mr. Simpson said, to the best of his knowledge, Ms. Jaggers is the only local north country winner in recent memory.

Her advice to other budding artists is don’t be discouraged if something doesn’t start right.

“Whenever you start a piece, if you don’t like it at first, keep working on it. It will develop,” she said.

“It’s a zone once you get into it,” Mr. Simpson said.

The Congressional Art Competition is a nation-wide high school art competition sponsored by the Congressional Institute to recognize and encourage young artists throughout the country. One piece of original art is chosen to represent each Congressional District for the year. More than 650,000 high school students have participated since 1982 when the competition began. Cheyanne Stunger from Argyle Central School won the 2013 competition for her work “Freedom.”

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