Recent graduate to represent N.H. in Congressional Art Competition in D.C. this summer

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Art by Melina Illinger
Graduate Melina Illinger’s drawing of her grandfather will be on display in Washington, D.C. this summer. Illinger is one of two students representing N.H. in the Congressional Art Competition.

Melina Illinger, a recent graduate, was at work when she got the call telling her that her piece of art had been selected to represent N.H. in the Congressional Art Competition.

“I really tried to keep it together, but I ended up squealing pretty loudly next to my boss,” Illinger said. “I was just way too excited.”

High School students around the U.S. submit entries to the Congressional Art Competition each year with hopes of having their artwork displayed at the Capitol building in Washington, D.C., for a year.

There are two districts representing N.H., so there are two winners who get to present their artwork in D.C. on June 29. Melina Illinger was one of the artists chosen this year.

“I’m really looking forward to D.C.,” Illinger said. “My dad and grandfather were really close, and I want my dad to see my grandfather’s life celebrated like this.”

Illinger created her winning portrait of her grandfather while he was in the hospital. He passed away shortly after she decided to create this piece of art, so he never got to see the final piece. She calls it “Professor Pop,” since he was a professor at Tufts University for 30 years. Two weeks after submitting her piece, on her grandfather’s birthday, Illinger received the news that she had won.

“It was pretty emotional for me and my dad when I found out I won,” Illinger said. “We wish my grandfather could have been around for it.”

On May 15, the NH District 1 celebration took place for the winner. Illinger’s art was displayed along with other entries at the New Hampshire Institute of Art (NHIA). There were over 100 entries overall, so this was a huge accomplishment for Melina. Ilinger also won a certificate and a free summer art program at NHIA for being the overall winner.

This win is not surprising, however, because Illinger has been a standout art student over her four years at LHS. Illinger took drawing and advanced drawing with art teacher Mimi Johnson and even attended her painting classes on Saturdays for all four years.

“Melina has used high school the best she possibly could to start her art career,” Johnson said. “She has taken advantage of all the art classes here and used the work force. Being the art director has given her a more worldly view on art. I’m very proud of her winning the award, especially it being my last year at LHS. I feel like I’m going out on top. Her impact here is just immeasurable.

Illinger also took acrylic painting and studio art classes with Mrs. Dyson, another art teacher at LHS.

“Melina is dedicated to her art,” Dyson said. “She is constantly drawing, and she’s always excited to come to class. Her passion for art is so clear and feedback doesn’t affect her negatively, but instead, she takes it to make her work better.”

Illinger credits Dyson with helping her to “slow down and be patient with [her] artwork.”

“Both Mimi [Johnson], Dyson, and the art classes here in general have forced me out of my comfort zones that I refused to leave before,” Illinger said. “I began painting portraits and using a variety of medium, thanks to them,” Illinger said.

In addition to taking art classes at LHS, she was also the art director for The Lancer Spirit for three years. Journalism teacher Mrs. DeWinkeleer said she was an integral part of making the newspaper a success.

“Melina is the whole package,” Dewinkeleer said. “She is an amazing artist and overall human being who is kind to everyone. I don’t know if there are words to express how much she’s contributed to The Lancer Spirit. Melina draws exactly what the editors want without arguing. On print night, we will often give her ten assignments at a time. She finishes them all, and they look incredible. She is able to bring visuals to harder-hitting stories.”

Illinger said the experience of being on The Lancer Spirit staff helped her to grow as both an artist and a writer.

“Being an editor and art director has taught me how to take criticism as a step towards improving and helping my art rather than as an attack on my art,” Illinger said.

Illinger will be continuing to pursue a career in art as she will be attending Mass Art in the fall with a focus in illustration.

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