July 2021: Congressional Art Competition

I am elated to share that over 300 bi-partisan members of Congress participated in this year’s Congressional Art Competition, an annual exhibition opportunity for several hundreds of high schoolers from around the nation to submit their artwork to their local member of Congress in hopes that it is selected for display in the Cannon Tunnel of the U.S. Capitol in Washington DC. This one-year exhibition is located in the most highly traveled access point between the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Capitol.  Each piece is carefully installed and labeled with the name of the artist, title of the work, and the congressional district.  The Congressional Institute coordinates the awards ceremony, which allows the winning artist from each district to visit Washington DC with one parent or guardian.  Fantastic growth opportunities like this help members of Congress to better serve and connect to their constituents while helping youth learn and participate in government and civics.

In July, the Curator’s Corner takes a look at its own young start, specifically its first art exhibition presented in the east wing of the second floor of the Mint building in 1941.  Among the artworks on display, some of which were created with support from the Work Projects Administration, were those by Reno resident, Robert Cole Caples who moved out West to Nevada at the age of 16 after completing his studies at the Art Students League in New York City. Thanks to his young start in the arts, his work is now embedded in Nevada history as well as private and public art collections.

Together as Nevadans, let us study the past, honor the present, and envision the future.
This month, it is my pleasure to present… Savanna Marin Guidas and Stacey Lei!

Savana Marin Guidas

Hello, my name is Savanna Marin Guidas. I live in Nevada Congressional District 2 served by Representative Mark Amodei. I am a 19-year-old self-taught artist. I use my art to help deal with my anxiety and learning difficulties. I began drawing in elementary school and have been drawing ever since. I love photorealism; I usually use colored pencils and I’m starting to experiment with paint. With my art I want to share love and help others to see things differently. I’m always looking for ways to get my art out so I was excited when my teacher discovered the Congressional Arts Awards.

“As an arts and humanities enthusiast, I have always supported the work of the Nevada Arts Council, the Nevada Humanities, and other programs across our country including the Congressional Institute’s annual Art Competition for America’s high school students. Each year, I look forward to viewing the entries sent in by talented young artists across Northern Nevada, with this year’s competition drawing a record number of entries. It is certainly no small accomplishment to have your work displayed in the U.S. Capitol building for thousands of visitors to see, and I congratulate Savanna on a job well done.”- Rep. Mark Amodei

Stacey Lei

Hello, my name is Stacey Lei. I live in Nevada Congressional District 3 served by Representative Susie Lee. I am a high schooler attending West Career and Technical Academy. As a child, I would always draw and design characters on any paper I could get my hands on. By middle school, a chance encounter on social media introduced me to the wonders of digital art, which quickly became my favorite medium. Recently, I have decided to return to traditional art and began dabbling in acrylics. My art teacher introduced me to the Congressional Art Competition and I saw it as an opportunity to voice my thoughts on the recent events regarding racism.


Savanna Marin Guidas

Drop of Nevada, 2019

11” x 14”

Colored pencils, art markers

Winning Artwork for Nevada Congressional District 2

Stacey Lei

Our Plate, 2021

18” x 24”


Winning Artwork for Nevada Congressional District 3

Hope, inspiration, and awe are some of the most compelling take-aways from any successfully organized art exhibition; more so when the artwork displayed is made by young, emerging artists. The congressional opportunity afforded to high schoolers across the nation, in thanks to our own state-elected officials, generates these wonderous moments of pause for participating students, including their families, friends, and teachers. These moments of creation and organization, so skillfully executed and so graciously sponsored, promote tomorrow’s visionaries and creative thinkers and in turn contributes to the concrete narratives of how the arts are so important in our own homes and families. I want to thank Representative Mark Amodei and Representative Susie Lee for their support of ‘The First Lady presents…’ and thank their staff for gracious communications and assistance in this state-wide program. – Mark Salinas

Mark: What is your favorite piece of art EVER?

Savanna: One of my favorite pieces I’ve done is my Water Ripple drawing, the meaning behind this piece is that Love travels outward, just like I want to share love through my art. Other pieces that are important to me are portraits I’ve done for families that have lost loved ones. My favorite work of art comes from nature, I’m inspired by patterns in nature especially by spirals and the golden ratio or the Fibonacci spiral that I love to include for my signature- it is in all of my art.

Stacey: I admire the work of Clockbirds (on Youtube). Each stroke breathes with intention and characters interact with the environment in a believable, yet mystical manner. Every painting transforms me into a new world, changing my position from a viewer of the artwork to a spectator of a mythological encounter.

Mark: Is there anyone who has supported your interest in making art? What did they do and how did that help?

Savanna: My family and friends and a few of my teachers have been very supportive to help me set up my art business, they’ve helped me get art supplies, set up a website, and find art competitions like this. I’m also grateful for the people that haven’t been supportive, because they’ve helped me be more determined to be successful.

Stacey: My sister has always been my greatest supporter. I have a tendency to get overly passionate when creating meanings behind my drawings; even so, my sister was always there to listen and offer constructive criticism. With her assistance, I was able to improve my anatomy through personalized references as well as finish months-long projects. She has a wondrous way of humoring me even through my darkest moments.

Additionally, my parents have supported my interest in art by encouraging me to pursue it and providing me with resources such as informative books, an art teacher, and a tablet for drawing. This has exposed me to new advice and more importantly, peers with similar interests, who have strengthened my resolve to improve. For that, I am eternally grateful to my family.

My art teacher, Mrs. Lee, has also been extraordinarily supportive and insightful. She has offered me a new approach to viewing references, fostered a lovable community, and introduced me to mediums I would have never tried otherwise. Without her, I would not be able to stand where I am.

Stacey Lei

Corner of Zion Park, 2021

11.5” x 18”


Savanna Marin Guidas

The Colors of Letting Go, 2020 30” x 30”

Oil paint

Mark: Finally, in your own words, what is art to you?

Savanna: For me art is a way of connecting, due to anxiety I have a hard time reaching out to people but my art has helped me. I believe art is about connecting with others.

Stacey: Art is a method for me to venture past the limitations of reality. Art is where the swashbuckling hero and the morally-gray villain struggle through a vividly painted forest. Art, although composed of only three letters, has constructed my entire childhood. However, art is not only a form of self-expression, but also a powerful tool for advocating change. A single illustration can convey a universal message, alter the career paths, and question fundamental principles of society. I hope that, with art, I could make an impact on someone out there, the same way it has influenced me.

For more information on Savanna Marin Guidas (, please visit: Facebook /Instagram: savannamarinart

For more information on Stacey Lei (, please visit:

Mark Steel Wool Salinas is an independent art consultant in Reno, Nevada.  He serves as a board member for the Pioneer Center for the Performing Arts, Nevada Arts Council, and Americans for the Arts Public Art Network.  He is the former founding Director of the Carson City Department of Arts & Culture.  Salinas provides public art consulting, creative content, and program management for clients including Smart Growth America, Forecast Public Art, the Town of Truckee, and the Reno-Tahoe International Airport.  Along with First Lady Kathy Sisolak and the Nevada State Museum, he established ‘The First Lady presents…’ and serves as art curator.