If Charles Dickens hadn’t already used it, the second part of the opening line of “A Tale of Two Cities” could aptly describe 2020: It was the worst of times. 

Eliana Anselmo decided to channel the pandemic into her art. 

“I wanted to relate my piece to the introduction of wearing masks for the first time and all the uproar it caused,” she said. “At the time, this was very relevant and [it was] interesting to look back on the mindset we all saw back them compared to now.”

– Eliana Anselmo

Her piece shows a young person wearing a dilapidated smiley face mask in which the smile doesn’t quite reach the eyes. The brilliant blue and cotton-candy pink sky is at odds with that almost pained expression. She titled it Worried About the Wrong Masks.

It seems at odds with Eliana’s personality.

When asked why emoji described her best, Eliana compared herself to the one with stars are eyes.

“I’m always excited,” she said. “The emoji really reminds me of how I’m always energetic and looking on the bright side, especially when trying to find things to keep me busy and occupied to better myself.”

Her artwork is not only a creative outlet, but one that is already helping her create a striking portfolio. 

Eliana is one of the winners of the 2020 Congressional Art Competition. Each year, Members of Congress host individual art competitions in their districts each year for high school students. The artwork of the first-place winner hangs in the Cannon Tunnel, one of the most well-traveled paths from the U.S. House into the Capitol building. Each year, hundreds of thousands of tourists and distinguished visitors plus Members, staff, media, and others marvel at the artistic achievement of the country’s youth.

The competition is sponsored by the Congressional Institute, a nonprofit organization that helps Members of Congress better serve their constituents and helps their constituents better understand the operations of the national legislature.

Although Eliana has artistic pursuits with stars in her eyes, she is also grounded. Her interest in animation was sparked by reading about Walt Disney’s drive to succeed. Her interest in pursuing an artistic career was sparked by being told, “Find something you love and devote every minute your time to that.” In 10 years, Eliana hopes to be working in animation for a major movie studio, a dream she’s had since 5th grade. 

Her interest in beach volleyball should complement her art in California. 

“I love to stay active and stay moving,” Eliana said. 

She also likes to keep her art moving. 

“I really experiment in anything I can get my hands on: ceramics, oil, acrylic, digital art,” she said, adding that she has excelled in her oil painting.

That excellence has led to achievement and representing Illinois’ 3rd Congressional District in the halls of Congress.