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Spring Lake Park High School junior Rachel Keenan’s painting “Letting Go” represented the good and bad she experienced during the COVID-19 pandemic. Keenan said she designed her painting using the experience of losing her grandma to COVID-19 last December and the social unrest that happened in the Twin Cities due to the killing of George Floyd May 25, 2020, while also referencing more hopeful moments in time.

Spring Lake Park High School junior Rachel Keenan won first place in the 2021 5th Congressional District Art Competition for her acrylic painting titled “Letting Go.”

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Spring Lake Park High School junior Rachel Keenan won first place in the 2021 5th Congressional District Art Competition for her acrylic painting titled “Letting Go.” (Photo courtesy of Spring Lake Park Schools)

The theme for the competition, hosted by U.S. Rep. Ilhan Omar’s office, was “connecting across isolation.” Students were encouraged to think about how they have been able to find community despite unusual circumstances related to the COVID-19 pandemic, and the meaning of connection through isolation.

Keenan resonated with the theme. She designed her art piece using the experience of losing her grandma to COVID-19 last December and the unrest in the Twin Cities sparked by the killing of George Floyd May 25, 2020, while also referencing more hopeful moments in time.

“My art piece ‘Letting Go’ is about the drastic contrast between the good and the bad found in the pandemic,” Keenan said in a statement.

When creating the piece, Keenan channeled the experience and the emotions she felt into each of the elements. The white hand represents loss. The negative area represents sadness and anger. The colorful hand represents coming together.

“Although we had some hard times, we also had a lot of good times and came together and grew as people and as a community,” Keenan said in a statement. “That is the emotional contrast I wanted to show in my piece and the contrast in the color and the shading represents those attributes very well.”

Keenan’s artwork will be displayed in the Cannon Tunnel at the United States Capital from October 2021 to March 2022. She will also have the opportunity to visit Washington D.C. and see her artwork on display.

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