WOODBURY — U.S. Rep. Jahana Hayes, D-5th District, visited Nonnewaug High School Thursday morning to celebrate the school’s recent 2021 Congressional Art Competition victory, and to see up close a piece of student artwork that will soon adorn the walls of her office.
Hayes took particular interest in two of the school’s 46 artwork submissions, both pen and ink or colored pencil drawings, that the Congresswoman said were masterfully done and so timely.
Senior Mekhi Chambers’ powerful piece titled “Fitting In,” is a self-portrait depicting an African-American living in largely white Woodbury, painting his face white as a way to fit in. It will soon be hanging in Hayes’ Danbury office.
Anna Goodwin’s “Allegro” drawing, about a teenager and the isolation brought on by the pandemic, will hang in the hallways at the United States Capitol in Washington, D.C.
Nonnewaug’s gymnasium is currently wall-to-wall artwork as part of its annual showcase, and Hayes congratulated Art Director Leesa Desjardins for the school’s perennial success over the years.
Hayes met with Chambers and called his work so appropriate for “right now” when the issue of race relations in America is at the forefront.
“This is just so thought provoking,” she said of Chambers’ work. “It forces people to open up a conversation about why this is even necessary.”
Hayes said Goodwin’s first-place piece showing various objects from her life that became even more prominent during quarantine offered hope that better days lie ahead.
“Between the Converse, the rainbow and the play bill; all these things are shut down. Like, you should have these (sneakers) on your feet, you should be going to shows and you should be out at summer camp,” Hayes said.
Goodwin, a junior, called the experience of meeting Hayes “surreal” as “Allegro” was the first serious art piece she had ever done. The Bethel resident is also part of the school’s Ellis Clark agriscience program.
Desjardins said it was an honor to have Hayes there in person to recognize the students’ hard work and talent.
“With everything that’s going on, it’s such a positive direction for our community to have the congresswoman here at our little school,” Desjardins said.
Hayes said her visit to Nonnewaug was a breath of fresh air as she said she expected to spend the rest of the day at hearings discussing policy.
“I really needed this,” Hayes said.