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Congressman Hank Johnson

Representing the 4th District of Georgia

Congressional Art Competition Reception, Saturday, 13 May 2017

May 19, 2017
Speech

Good morning!

We are here again and I must say that I am extremely excited about this year’s competition. That’s not to discount any of the previous competitions but this competition has some truly special pieces.

I came into my district office a couple Fridays ago and all of the work was on display from where all of you, your teachers and parents had delivered your art work. I thought that I had walked into an art gallery or the High Museum of Decatur, GA. All of you have special talent. I saw a wide variation of mediums on display. There were charcoal, pencil, acrylic, oil, and graphite drawings. There were paintings with brilliant colors and meticulous detail as well as photographs with double exposures and overlays.

I saw Mandela, First Lady Michelle and President Obama, LeBron James, Big Papi ….to a picture of a young Lady with pink hair and even an orange seeming to be peeled or grated in mid-air. When I viewed these pieces, I could only imagine what these young people were thinking as they created their submission.

Not that I have ever doubted the importance of programs such as this, but this display of art, imagination and commitment made me wholeheartedly understand the need for these types of initiatives for our young people, our young dreamers, and our young innovators. Opportunities such as this, allows each of you to have your moment. Have your moment to tell a story, tell your own story in some cases.

Many of you may have heard about the controversial painting by former St. Louis high school student David Pulphus. It was a depiction of a “hands up, don’t shoot” narrative of the shooting death of the black teenager Michael Brown by Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson in 2014. The painting depicted police as piglike animals –law enforcement and that offended people.

It may have offended certain individuals, but this was the expression of the experiences of a young black man that grew up amid high profile cases of young black males being killed by police. Right or wrong, this is art and the first amendment protects our freedom of expression. We are free to express the things that impact our lives.

So today, I say to all of you. Keep giving people like myself and other admirers of your work your perspective of your life, your community, your country, and your world. Never allow anyone to box you in because your pen, charcoal piece, paint brush and camera have power. They give you a power that lies within each of you and the power to imagine any and everything imaginable. So keep imagining and keep expressing yourself every moment that you get.