Cherry Hill East sophomore wins Congressional Art Competition

Li honored for patriotic-themed painting.

Cherry Hill High School East rising sophomore Katherine Li was the winner of the 2020 Congressional Art Contest for New Jersey’s 1st Congressional District. Her winning work, seen here just prior to completion, is called “The Family’s Honor.” It portrays a young man saluting beside his veteran grandfather, who holds a folded flag in commemoration of his son’s sacrifice for the country. The painting will eventually be displayed at the U.S. Capitol. (Photo credit: Katherine Li/Special to the Sun)

Back in early June, Donald Norcross, U.S. Congressman for New Jersey’s First District, announced that Katherine Li, a 15-year-old township resident, was the winner of the 2020 Congressional Art Competition.  

Li, who is a soon to be a sophomore at Cherry Hill High School East, rose above the rest thanks to her painting — created with acrylic paint on canvas — called “The Family’s Honor.” 

“The painting took a while to complete. If I had an estimate, I’d say It took about a week to finish,” Li said in a conversation with the Sun on July 28. 

“It took me a while to come up with the idea, then some more time to draw the outline. Then, I painted for a little bit each day on the canvas until I thought it was complete.”

The work depicts a young man saluting beside his veteran grandfather, who holds a folded flag in commemoration of his son’s sacrifice for the country. The folding ceremony takes place to commemorate those who died fighting for their country. In this case, a veteran remembers his son while his grandson, a young soldier, pays tribute to the same man — his father. 

“The nature of sacrifice always touched me and I wanted to include a theme of sacrifice and of duty, which was represented by the folded flag,” Li explained. 

“My painting reflects three generations of family that committed themselves to service. Having the honor to contribute, especially in the context of sacrifice and bravery, strikes me as admirable.”  

Although Li was unsure who is currently in possession of the work, the painting will eventually be displayed in the U.S. Capitol.  

Li’s award-winning submission makes it three out of four years that young women from Cherry Hill have been honored for their artistic talent. Last year, Chelsea Yang, who was then a rising junior at East, won the competition. Three years ago, Hannah Jin, a ninth grader from Moorestown Friends School, was selected as the winner.

“Katherine’s painting beautifully depicts the sacrifice families make when their loved ones go to war, sometimes never returning home,” said Norcross in a statement which accompanied the announcement of Li’s triumph. 

“As the proud father and father-in-law of veterans and a member of the House Armed Services Committee, I know that we, as a nation, owe a debt of gratitude to all of the families who supported their loved ones and paid the ultimate price when their heroes never returned home.”

All students who submitted artwork for the competition were honored by Norcross with an official Congressional certificate. 

Though enjoying her summer and still a bit in shock from having won, Li is beginning to think about the upcoming school year, in whatever form that will take.  

“I am looking forward to taking AP studio art, although it’s a class I won’t have until my junior year,” she said. 

Typical for someone her age, Li doesn’t exactly have a ready-made answer for what she’ll miss about going back to school in September if it happens in the virtual realm. It didn’t take too much digging to produce an answer that cuts across all ages.  

“I think physically going to school has a lot of parts to it in a day that online school can’t make up for,” she offered. “And one of those things, is to actually interact with people — your friends and teachers — instead of simply watching someone through a screen,” she added. 

For more information about the competition, including details to enter, visit: https://norcross.house.gov/services/art-competition.