Later this June, Highlands High School Senior Oscar Pinedo will have the chance to do something very few American artists get to do. He will see his work hanging in the U.S. Capitol building, where news and policy makers walk the halls daily.
Pinedo’s painting It’s Getting Pretty Western Out Here was chosen by U.S. Rep. Lloyd Doggett (D-TX35) as the winner for his district in the annual Congressional Art Competition. Pineda’s painting will hang in the Capitol for one year alongside other student artwork chosen by members of Congress.
“Any time we can find a way to applaud the success of public education and young students to encourage them in their work, we need to seize it,” Doggett said.
Pinedo’s painting, which depicts his father, Jose Pinedo, on horseback at the family ranch, is a great image of Texas, Doggett added.
“I was really pleased that the person riding in (the painting) was his father,” he said.
Southwest Airlines will fly winners to Washington D.C. in June to see their artwork on display. Doggett remembered the pride he felt seeing his own work hung in a local art museum when he was in middle school, and hopes that the experience is valuable for Pinedo.
“It was a really big deal to have your efforts affirmed in that manner,” Doggett said. “Hopefully this encourages him to continue.”
Doggett also hopes that the recognition will highlight San Antonio’s strong arts culture, as well as the vibrant art education opportunities in the city, such as SAY Sí and programs at Blue Star Contemporary.
In addition to the trip to Washington D.C., Pinedo has also been celebrated by his teachers and peers. When the award was announced in April, the school hosted a pep rally for Pinedo with Doggett and district officials in attendance. The cheerleaders and the mariachi band performed, making Pinedo a school celebrity. He was also recognized at the SAISD board meeting on May 16.
When he’s quietly working away in the art room, Pinedo sticks to his favorite subject.
“I like to paint cats,” he said.
He was actually surprised that it was one of his human subject paintings that won the congressional contest. The painting was a light-hearted request by his father that the young artist paint something besides cats.
“My dad loves animals … except cats,” Pinedo said, laughing.
Not that the cat paintings haven’t been successful in their own right. Pinedo won first place in the SAISD Christmas card competition, and a Highlands teacher commissioned a painting of his pet cat.
“I’m not the first one to recognize that this kid’s got talent,” Doggett said.
Annette Hoffman has been encouraging Pinedo to develop his talents since his freshman year. He is one of many talented students she has seen over the years, and hopes he will capitalize on his gifts.
In her 37 years as an art teacher in San Antonio ISD, Hoffman’s students have won many awards.
“Just about any competition I hear of, I put in front of them,” she said.
This is the first time the Congressional High School Art Competition has gone to Highlands. Past SAISD winners were at Brackenridge High School and Jefferson High School.
Highlands has been under construction since Pinedo started school there his freshman year. The art room is an unmodified science lab. While nice for washing brushes, it’s not ideal for a broad art curriculum. Hoffman cannot offer 3-D art like she would like to. The renovation is scheduled to be completed in 2017, and Hoffman hopes to be able to expand the art offerings in appropriate facilities.
While Hoffman knows that very few of her students will go on to be professional artists, adding awards and recognitions to their resumé can help with college admissions and scholarships. Even if they don’t major in art, taking classes and connecting to the college arts community will enhance their educational experience, as it has in high school.
Pinedo is going to Palo Alto College to study business and plans to take art classes while there. Through those classes and the school’s connection with local arts institutions, Pinedo will have the chance to connect with a wider art community, expanding his appreciation for the rich culture of San Antonio and beyond.
Top image: Oscar Pinedo with recent work at Highlands High School. Photo by Bekah McNeel.