Bellefonte senior Alex Spangler capped off his high school career with a special honor.
His painting of a train rolling cross-country on railroad tracks earned him the co-runner-up spot in the Congressional Art Contest for Pennsylvania’s 5th District.
“It feels great to be a part of representing Centre County in the largest (congressional) district in Pennsylvania,” Spangler said. “It’s a great honor.”
Represented by Rep. Glenn Thompson (R-Howard Township), the Fifth Congressional District is the largest in area, but least densely populated.
Earlier in the year, Spangler was approached by his art teacher, Heather Fry, about the annual competition.
“The idea took a few weeks to come up with, and putting it to canvas took about 30 hours total over two weeks,” he said about the acrylic painting.
Named “Tracks of Ingenuity,” the 16-by-20-inch painting, Spangler said, represents American history.
He said the train represents how the country is moving forward into a new era of industrialism, but at the same time represents the past and how industry helped define the country.
“ ‘Tracks of Ingenuity’ means that the train moves forward in terms of American industrialism to make what made America great, and what will make American great again,” Spangler said. “We need to remember that we’re still pioneers (in industrialism), and the spirit of ingenuity is in creating new things, and I think this piece captures that.”
He said trains have held a special part in his life since age 4, when he visited the Strasburg Rail Road — the oldest continuously operating railroad in the western hemisphere and oldest public functioning transportation system in Pennsylvania, chartered June 9, 1832 and officially opening five years later.
“Trains have been a big part of my life … and it’s taken the path of artistry, kind of like an homage to the love of trains,” Spangler said.
The Congressional Art Competition began in 1982 to provide an opportunity for members of Congress to encourage and recognize the artistic talents of young constituents. Since then, more than 650,000 high school students have participated in the nationwide competition, a report from Thompson said.
This year, 37 students entered the competition.
The winning piece, “Chocolate Lab,” was painted by Jefferson County Technical School student Cassy Lester, of Reynoldsville.
Her painting, along with the winners from the other congressional districts, will be displayed in the U.S. Capitol Building.
“I really encourage other art students to participate in this,” Spangler said. “It’s a good way to get your work recognized.”
Spangler plans to study next school year at Kutztown University and study applied digital art.