Each year, the White House Historical Association hosts the National Student Art Competition for students in grades K-12 across the nation. Students are given almost two months to create their own unique artwork around the provided theme. This year, the first-place winner in the K-3 category is Gabby Faisal, a third-grader at Four Corners Montessori Academy, a charter school in Madison Heights.
The 2021 theme was “The White House: An American Story” which students got to interpret in their own way. Gabby’s winning approach was shown in her artwork entitled Enslaved African Americans Built the White House pictured below.
Gabby's artwork entitled Enslaved African Americans Built the White House will be on display at the White House Visitors Center July 29 - September 22.
I was inspired to paint this picture because of the history I read and learned from my father. The White House is a symbol of America that was built by enslaved African Americans. The Red Stripes symbolize our struggle for freedom. The White Stripes symbolize the purity of our struggle. Blue is the symbol of justice for all people no matter what color. The Stars represent the unity of all people coming together. The shackled hands are the hands of enslaved Africans who built the White House.”
- Gabby, 9 years old
Gabby entered the competition to let her art speak for itself. She didn’t know how the competition might play out, so she and her parents were ecstatic just to participate. Then it got even better.
While they were supposed to receive an email letting them know Gabby had placed in the top three in her age group, they never received one. Her parents insisted that she watch the live stream of the winners to support other students across the country. When her art flashed across the screen for first place, the house erupted in the cries and screams of shock, joy, and excitement.
We told Gabrielle we should watch the program telling her ‘If you had won, you would want the kids across the country to watch and celebrate you, so let’s make sure we watch the program and celebrate them.’ We sat down to watch and they showed third, then second, then when they hit first place, her name and her artwork came across the screen and it was just unbelievable. We didn’t expect her to win anything because we never got that email. There was lots of crying and screaming and hugging. We were just so excited for her.”
- Rashid, Gabby's father.
Looking at Gabby’s art, her talent, creativity, and passion are all evident. She has an entire portfolio that dates back to the days where she was just able to pick up a paintbrush or pencil and draw. This leads to the question - will she continue to pursue art in the future? Maybe! Gabby plans to keep creating art and even expanding into different mediums such as photography and filmmaking in the future. She’s also interested in activism and continuing to tackle topics that create conversation around her art and the subject.
Her biggest takeaway from this entire experience? She hopes you feel inspired.