MASSENA — Coffee not only helps open the eyes in the morning. It also helps win art competitions.

A piece submitted by Massena Central High School sophomore Ella Matejcik, penciled from a photograph of her dog and then colored with coffee, was the winner of this year’s 21st District Congressional Art Competition.

“It’s unreal. I did not think it was going to win,” Ms. Matejcik said.

The nationwide high school arts competition is sponsored each spring by the members of the U.S. House of Representatives. The Congressional Art Competition is an opportunity to recognize and encourage the artistic talent in the nation, as well as in each congressional district. It’s open to all students from seventh to 12th grades in the 21st District.

The piece was created during one of teacher Chad Simpson’s art classes.

“The class she’s in is a lot less structured. She’s in an advanced class, so they get the opportunity to try different things,” Mr. Simpson said.

He said that because it’s a small group, it’s easier to teach students individually.

“I think I encouraged them to try coffee,” he said.

And that’s exactly what Ms. Matejcik did. Using the diluted coffee like a watercolor with different hues, she transformed a photograph into a sketch and then a winning piece of coffee art.

“It’s a picture of my dog that my dad had taken,” she said.

Little did she know that the work impressed Mr. Simpson so much that he decided to enter it into the Congressional Art Competition. He said nearly 500 pieces of art are submitted nationally.

“For each district in Congress, the congressperson opens it up. It says anybody in the region can send in artwork. One piece is selected for each region,” he said. “It was a strong piece. In the past it’s typically juniors and seniors that we send out.”

“I didn’t know until he told me he was going to send it in,” Ms. Matejcik said.

The winning piece was selected by Rep. Elise M. Stefanik, R-Willsboro.

“I had to take it in person to one of her regional offices. I delivered it personally to Ogdensburg. Elise gathered it up from all of her other offices,” Mr. Simpson said.

As the winner, Ms. Matejcik said she had an opportunity to speak over the phone with the congresswoman about the art.

“She was just asking me about how I used the coffee and how I got the pieces. She was just blown away that it was made with coffee,” she said.

Her work, which measures 16 inches by 22 inches, will now be displayed for one year at the U.S. Capitol for everyone to see. Millions of visitors to the Capitol view this exhibit each year.

“With my Regents exams, I’m not going to be able to make it for the reception. There is a chance for me to go and see it (this summer),” Ms. Matejcik said.

Mr. Simpson said it’s quite an honor for someone who is just now getting into art. He said Ms. Matejcik was also an honorable mention winner at a Scholastics art competition, “which is a real big one for all of New York state.”

“As a kid, I would draw pictures just for fun or color pictures,” Ms. Matejcik said. “In junior high I barely got to take an art class. I really didn’t start doing actual art until last year when I was in art class.”

“She’s just getting started,” Mr. Simpson said. “She’s only a sophomore. I figure with the accolades now, she’ll stick around.”

Ms. Matejcik already has other projects she’s working on.

“I like drawing in pencil. I usually just take a lot of pictures, so I’ll find something in my camera. I drew a picture of my uncle and his fiancee for their wedding. I’m drawing one of my uncle’s friend’s dogs for them right now,” she said.

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Johnson Newspapers 7.1

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