Photo: 9th District 2016 Congressional Art Competition Winner, "Green Arrow" by Tuesday Smith of Garfield High School
Following Censorship of Student Artist, Congressman Adam Smith will not Participate in the 2017 Congressional Art Competition
I regret to announce that for the first time ever, my office will not participate in the Congressional Art Competition. Although it is always a pleasure to see the work of the 9th District’s talented young artists, I cannot in good conscience participate this year.
This decision is the result of careful deliberation, following instances of censorship in the competition. Earlier this year, Republican members of the House silenced a young artist from Missouri by repeatedly removing a painting from its display in the Capitol Building. The painting portrayed a conflict with law enforcement following the death of Michael Brown, an unarmed black teen. Responding to pressure from Republican leadership, the competition’s organizers removed the painting, and adopted a new rule banning art that “depicts contemporary political controversy, or of a sensationalistic or gruesome nature.”
It is for this reason that I am unwilling to participate. Artistic expression is essential to a healthy democracy. Art has the unique capacity to inspire resistance, protest and hope. It starts conversations; it exposes contradictions, and abuses. It touches people in a deep and affecting way. It is for this reason that art is the first target of oppressive regimes. In this democracy, the First Amendment protects artists and ensures that no one has a monopoly on truth. I am taking a stand in defense of art. I will not participate in the Congressional Art Competition, and I will fight Republican efforts to slash funding to the National Endowment for the Arts.
I will gladly participate in the competition in the future, given that these new rules are lifted, and that the integrity of the competition is restored. In the meantime, I would like to apologize to any disappointed young artists. I encourage you to keep creating, and keep criticizing. Art is not always polite and beautiful, because art pursues truth, and the truth is not always polite or beautiful.
Thank you for your many years participating in this event and I look forward to working with you in the future. If my office can ever be of assistance to you in the future, please contact my District Office at (425) 793-5810.