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Fiora Caligiuri-Randall was announced as the winner of the competition by U.S. Rep. Richard Neal at his Pittsfield office on Friday.

Lee Teenager Wins Congressional Art Competition

By Andy McKeeveriBerkshires Staff
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The self-portrait will hang in the Capitol in Washington D.C.
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — Fiora Caligiuri-Randall has a natural gift.
Only the second acrylic painting the 14-year-old has done will now hang in the halls of the Capitol in Washington, D.C. Fiora's painting beat out 45 other high school artist's work throughout the First Massachusetts Congressional District in this year's Congressional Art Competition.
"I am a self-taught artist. I haven't taken any art classes. This year, I decided to take some art classes at Berkshire Community College. I took Drawing 1 last semester and I did this painting at fundamentals of painting this semester," Fiora said.
"This is the second piece I've ever done in acrylic that was a multi-stage. And my first figure portrait in acrylic."
She started drawing for greeting cards when she was 8 years old. She is branching out into trying all types of art and her future hopes are to become a children's book author and illustrator. She also has a love for playing classical music on the piano.
"I'm hoping to be able to combine them in my career so maybe write and illustrate children's books and then write music to go with it," Fiora said. 
The home-schooled student from Lee found out about the competition from her mother and submitted the self-portrait of her under a blossoming cherry tree. 
"I think this portrait symbolizes my feeling that a lot of opportunities are opening up for me in my life. And so the blossoms are at their peak and the sky behind, that's why I put sky instead of more trees like the sky's the limit," she said. "The blossoms also symbolize my fear that time is going to run out for me to do everything I want to do. The blossoms are going to fall soon."
She didn't think she was going to win, she just thought the competition was "cool."
"I was really shocked. I totally didn't expect to win," Fiora said.
An independent team of three professional artists picked the winner from submissions made from across U.S. Rep. Richard Neal's district. Fiora will now fly down to Washington D.C. on June 29th, joining artists from other congressional districts, for the opening ceremony. 
"The competition is intense. There were 10 schools and 45 entries. This is really a magnificent achievement for you," Neal said.
The congressman said so much emphasis is placed on sports achievements in schools, but "there are many facets to the arts world and I think highlighting those achievements are equally important."
"When there are cutbacks in school systems, it is always the art program which is cut back or the music program which gets cut back. At the national level, the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for Humanities become easy targets. It is the determination of people like myself, who are adamant that those are very important quality-of-life issues across America, that need to defend it," Neal said.
Art provides a special aspect to the quality of life in this country and Neal says he'll continue to defend it. Since he has been in Congress, he's participated in the annual competition.
The competition has been ongoing since the 1980s and continues to gain momentum as more and more congressmen participate in their own districts. As the congressmen walk down the halls of the Capitol, they'll all be able to see Fiora's work.

Tags: arts competition,   competition,   Congress,   Neal,   

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