Starting on Saturday, San Antonio student artists will be well represented on the streets of downtown and in the halls of the U.S. Congress.

At the Westside Education & Training Center, U.S. Rep. Joaquin Castro (D-San Antonio) announced Brandeis High School senior Hogai Qasmi as the first-place winner of the annual Congressional Art Competition.

The competition fielded 96 students entries from 16 area high schools. Qasmi won with a finely detailed painting titled Modern With Traditional, representing a room interior that combines elements of traditional Afghan culture such as a porcelain tea service and toshak sitting cushions with the modern convenience of a large screen television.

Second place went to senior Natalie Garcia-Ramos of the International School of the Americas, and third place went to junior Amberly Wintheiser, also from Brandeis High School.

Qasmi will be recognized at an annual awards ceremony in Washington, D.C., and his painting will be displayed for one year in the U.S. Capitol building along with other winning entries from districts around the country. The artwork of the second and third-place winners will be displayed in Castro’s offices in Washington and San Antonio.

<I>Modern With Traditional</I>
Modern With Traditional, Hogai Qasmi Credit: Courtesy / Office of Joaquin Castro

Earlier on Saturday, the Texas Cavaliers and nonprofit public school advocacy group Go Public also announced winners of their respective annual contests, the Texas Cavaliers River Parade Art Contest for elementary students, and the Go Public High School Art Spotlight.

The Cavaliers awarded Bulverde Creek Elementary fifth grader Fiona O’Dell first place for her vibrant depiction of hot air balloons soaring above a river scene featuring a pink Alamo and a rainbow steam engine. Finalists from elementary schools in each San Antonio City Council district were also chosen.

O’Dell won tickets to the parade, a medal and placement of her artwork on the program of the Texas Cavaliers River parade, along with a ride on a parade float with parade Grand Marshal and Apollo 16 astronaut Charlie Duke. She also won Whataburger for a year, and a one-week scholarship to attend UTSA Southwest’s Summer Art Camp.

Her win also benefits Bulverde Creek Elementary with $5,000 for the school’s art program. Each council district winner receives a week at the UTSA Southwest’s Summer Art Camp and $3,000 for their school’s art program.

From among 290 entries from area high schools, Go Public chose 15 winners. Cole High School student Alexa Villanueva took first prize for her painting depicting fellow Cole students gathered in a sunny park. Chloe Sanchez of Harlan High School won second place and Isabella Lorenzana of Madison High School took third place. Each won a scholarship ranging from $100 to $250.

Each of the 15 Go Public contest winners receives a custom tote bag emblazoned with their artwork.

Anyone interested in seeing the winning artworks from both contests should keep their eyes open for two VIA buses traversing downtown routes for the next six months, one wrapped with O’Dell’s and the 10 district winners’ artworks, the other wrapped with the artworks of Go Public’s 15 winners.

Senior Reporter Nicholas Frank moved from Milwaukee to San Antonio following a 2017 Artpace residency. Prior to that he taught college fine arts, curated a university contemporary art program, toured with...