Spring Branch ISD student’s artwork to hang in the US Capitol

"Essential Cowboy" by Kunyang Li

HOUSTON, Texas – 2021 Memorial High School graduate Kunyang Li will have his artwork hung in the Capitol Building in Washington D.C.

“He caught my eye because he had a cowboy hat and plaid shirt on...he looked like a cowboy,” Li said in the description of his work. “Instead of a horse, his ride was his truck (‘on a steel horse I ride’). He truly represented an Essential Cowboy. I am grateful for these men and women who kept our country rolling during our darkest days.”

According to a release from Spring Branch ISD, Li’s colored pencil drawing features a truck driver who he photographed in a grocery store parking lot during the summer of 2020. The artwork, titled Essential Cowboy, is meant to honor the essential workers who have kept the country going throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. It was one of the pieces he created for his Advanced Placement Drawing portfolio comprised of artwork focused on the working class.

Essential Cowboy was selected by Congresswoman Lizzie Fletcher as the 2021 winner of Texas’ Seventh Congressional District’s Congressional Art Competition. “His thoughtful piece reflects not only his skill but also the values of our community,” Fletcher said in a press release announcing the winner. “I thank him and all of the students who submitted their artwork in this competition, demonstrating talent and community engagement that represents our community well.”

Li’s artwork will be featured in the U.S. Capitol along with art from other students across the country, according to the release. His work was also among the top 10 finalists for the previous year’s competition.

“I cannot express how excited I am for this amazing young man,” Memorial High School art teacher Elisa Barry said. “Kunyang’s grit, perseverance and dedication to his craft are just a few of the traits that make him one of the best art students I have ever taught.”

Li also expressed gratitude for his art teacher, saying, “I would never be where I am without her support.”