Democracy Collection

NAEA Student Competition

On February 15, 2023, the U.S. Department of State’s Art in Embassies (AIE) office and the National Art Education Association (NAEA) announced the call for artwork for the Democracy Collection Student Art Competition to showcase the artwork of talented middle school and high school student artists ages 13–18 as they explore the theme of democracy through the creation of art. The Art in Embassies Democracy Collection initiative brings art diplomacy for democracy to every hemisphere through artist exchanges, traveling exhibitions, civic engagements, events at cultural institutions, and an outreach program to expand the Art in Embassies’ diplomatic art repository at the service of U.S. diplomats for generations to come.

Out of more than 100 submissions for the competition, 29 works of art were jury-selected for inclusion in a virtual exhibition on NAEA’s website. As a guest judge, artist Shepard Fairey selected three Regional and one Best in Show Winner from the 29 artworks.

Daniel Rivera, a 2023 Berlin High School senior from West Stephentown, NY, was awarded Best in Show for his artwork, Tears of Miss Justice: Mourning a Broken System. He will be honored alongside his art teacher, Samantha Colbert, at the Art in Embassies Art Activations for Democracy event on September 19, 2023, at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History in Washington, DC. Rivera’s artwork will also become a permanent part of the Democracy Collection within the Art in Embassies repository, in which U.S. ambassadors will have a chance to select it for display in their embassies around the globe.

See the full online exhibit online at NAEA.

Best in Show

Daniel Rivera

“I created “Tears of Miss Justice: Mourning a Broken System” to portray what I see in our country. She represents the way I see many of us blind to the truth of how our two-party system causes pain and fights amongst citizens of America. Her tears represent the citizens of America. The colors of her tears represent the two different political parties, while the presence of the tears symbolizes the sadness and pain our country faces when the parties fight, argue, and pit the people against each other. Miss Justice is set in an all-black background to make her the focal point, with shades of gray in her face representing a sense of dread and despair. Her blindfold, which the tears bleed through, represents the way I see many of us blind to the truth behind our system.”

Daniel Rivera, Tears of Miss Justice: Mourning a Broken System, Troy, NY

Regional Winners
Zoey Duchene
American Baby

“American Baby” is meant to represent generations of political party affiliation being pushed on to children when they’re born. The purple on the baby is symbolism for the next generation to choose what they want to support on their own, not being forced by adults. The arm reaching out is the baby reaching out to the next generation of voters to make their choice.

Ariel Luangkhot
Take Back the Court

The Supreme Court’s overruling of Roe v. Wade played the most significant role in my reasoning for creating this piece. For millions of people around the country, including myself, this decision acted as something like an eye-opener. It made me think deeper about and reexamine the trust I once had for the country’s institutions. In this piece, I try to push the boundaries of what art can do and use it as a vehicle for this message to convince viewers to do the same, and to realize that a representative government…

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…shouldn’t be an institution that feels untouchable to its people but one that works for them. For this to become a reality, we all have to challenge what it currently is. The medium of this piece is one of the most significant parts of it. The history of printmaking is tied to and rooted in centuries of activism, something that plays a critical role in democracy, and with this piece, I try to delve into that. “Take Back the Court” isn’t just a passive, visual piece.

Amera Van
I Will Not Be Silenced

I chose to make this artwork to bring attention to the issues central to who I am. I am Amera Van, and I create artwork about the Black Experience. This painting depicts an African American Woman and member of the Black Lives Matter movement, “power fist,” and contains the names of people who have been murdered or put in jail unjustly tangled within the woman’s puffed-out hair. As an African American woman, I am forced to see and face discrimination against my people every day…  

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Through this artwork, I explored many different ways of applying paint to a canvas using a brush along with a graffiti-inspired paint marker.  The intention behind this painting was to bring light to these big issues that are prevalent still, even in such a small town. No matter where you are, you have a voice that needs to be heard.

“NAEA is proud to collaborate with the U.S. Department of State Art in Embassies office on this competition as together we celebrate the 60th anniversary of the Democracy Collection. Helping students explore what democracy means to them, and offering a national platform for expression and recognition in the visual arts, is invaluable. We congratulate all the students who were selected, those who entered the competition, as well as their art educators.”

– Mario R. Rossero, NAEA Executive Director