Student’s art to hang in U.S. Capitol

Education By David L. Snelling Reporter Thursday, June 3, 2021

Using only pencils, Mater Academy Charter High School senior Michael Cano drew such a compelling portrait of a man that it was chosen for display in the U.S. Capitol complex.

Cano, 18, of Hialeah, said he was inspired -- by the hard times that some people are living through and the impact of race upon a person’s fortune -- to create the winning work.

“As a society, I’m disappointed with how things are right now,” Cano said. “Racial discrimination affects people’s way of living. We need to address the issue because it’s getting out of hand.”

Every spring, the

Congressional Institute sponsors a nationwide, high school visual art competition to recognize young talent from each congressional district.

Cano’s drawing, entitled “Pragya,” will hang for a year with other students’ work in the Cannon Tunnel, a walkway between the House Office Building and the Capitol.

He was selected by U.S. Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, who represents Florida’s District 25.

The long-serving Republican’s South Florida district stretches between Doral and Naples and includes Miami Lakes and Hialeah.

Diaz-Balart said Cano’s drawing was among 27 entries in the district contest.

“This year, I am proud to recognize Michael Cano as the winner of the Congressional Art Competition,” Diaz-Balart said in a statement. “The Congressional Art Competition provides an opportunity for students in our community to showcase their amazing talent and creativity.

“I am honored to represent such talented students and dedicated teachers who have allowed this competition to be
a complete
 year after
year,” he

Cano’s drawing is of the face of a man with a steady gaze who could be from
several different cultures or countries.

He created it with Prismacolor pencils.

The man’s face has a paint drip effect in black, gray and white tones that was drawn with lead pencil.

The title of the work, “Pragya,” can be a proper name which means wisdom in Sanskrit.

Cano said he was surprised he won the district contest because it was his first art competition.

“It completely caught me off guard,” he said. “I am honored that my drawing was chosen.”

Cano said he is of Cuban descent and has never been the target of discrimination or violence.

He said he hopes his drawing will inspire those who see it to become knowledgeable about other cultures.

“When you get to know someone, you understand what that person is all about and where he came from,” Cano said. “Then, you can judge him by his character instead of the color of his skin.”

Cano said it took him a month to finish the drawing.

Damon O. Gopie, Cano’s art teacher at Mater Academy Charter High School in Hialeah Gardens, said the drawing was based on the student’s studies in an Advanced Placement course on racism.

Gopie called Cano a “great” young artist who inspires his classmates. “Overall, he’s a great student and an exceptional individual,” Gopie said. “He has been a model student. I have taught him since he was in the 7th grade.

“He’s well-mannered and always has a smile on his face,” Gopie said. “I’ve always wondered if he ever had a bad day because he never shows it.”

Cano said he plans to study biology at Florida International University in the fall and to continue to draw as a hobby.

He said he also will encourage young artists to express themselves in their work.

“I think art is a good way to advocate for things,” Cano said. “It shows that you’ve got talent and you strongly believe in something.”

Photo of “Pragya” courtesy of Michael Cano.

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