Every spring for the last 31 years, a high school arts competition is sponsored by members of the U.S. House of Representatives to recognize artistic talent across the nation. After submissions are evaluated by a small panel of judges for their beauty, skill, uniqueness, meaning and intent, Congressman Aaron Schock selects a piece from among the top 10 finalists to send to Washington DC to represent the 18th District.

Maya Jain of Dunlap High School was the winner of the 2012 Congressional Arts Competition. Entitled “Of Night and Life,” her colored pencil artwork was inspired by a scene from the book, The Great Gatsby, and a rainy night’s drive home when the reflection of street lamps on the road caught her attention. It will hang for the next year in the passageway between the congressional office buildings and the U.S. Capitol.

“I am always amazed by the artwork submitted for the art show and competition,” explains Congressman Schock. “I was very impressed by Maya’s winning submission. She is well deserving of this year’s top honor.”

The arts are important for education and economic growth, Schock says, noting that creativity is among the top qualities employers seek in new employees. Arts education, he says, “increases test scores, improves academic skills essential for reading and language development, and has been helpful in advancing students’ motivation to learn. Which is why having an arts education and a thriving arts community in any town is important.” a&s