Artwork by Perham student earns award in Congressional Art Competition

Perham junior Lola Strong's mixed-media piece, "Fated Clovers," recently earned an honorable mention in the 2023 Congressional Art Competition.

Lola Strong, a junior at Perham High School, will have her art displayed in U.S. Rep. Michelle Fischbach's Willmar, Minnesota, office.
Elizabeth Vierkant / Perham Focus

PERHAM — Students of the Perham Public School District continue to awe people all across the state of Minnesota. Lola Strong, a junior and lifelong artist, earned an honorable mention in the 2023 Congressional Art Competition in Minnesota's 7th District. Her mixed-media piece, "Fated Clovers," was one of four winners selected by U.S. Rep. Michelle Fischbach out of over 40 different entries.

Strong's piece will be on display at Fischbach's Willmar, Minnesota, office for all to see.

"I just wanted to create something that made people smile and remember something happier," Strong said. "And it's just nice that that message got reached at a state level — that people see that you can just smile and be happy, even when the world's falling apart."

"Fated Clovers" — which Strong created with gouache, watercolor, colored pencils, inking pens and alcohol markers — depicts a specific moment of happiness in a dark time. The illustration is based on a story concept percolating through Strong's mind.

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"Fated Clovers" by Lola Strong was created with gouache, watercolor, colored pencils, inking pens and alcohol markers.
Contributed / Lola Strong

The artist explained the scene takes place right before World War II. Four people at the front right side of the piece are teachers. They are dealing with the gravity of their situation while taking a moment to have fun. Two other boys are enjoying the barn dance, one playing the cello and another waltzing with a woman, knowing that they're about to head out to war. This dance highlights a bubble of happiness and joy right before their worlds fall apart around them, she concluded.


"You can find happy things in something as big as war," Strong said.

Strong herself has been depicting happiness in art since she was around three years old. When she was a kid, adults gave her crayons and she'd happily sit down and create. All throughout childhood, her art style began to grow and develop into black-and-white illustrations of people, but all that changed when she was hit with a bout of inspiration in her freshman year of high school.

She'd always loved the artwork in the "Fancy Nancy" books, illustrated by Robin Preiss Glasser. While Strong also loves and respects digital art, there's just something about illustrations created by hand that really awe Strong.

"There's something about knowing that you can't mess up a piece," she explained. "We can't hit the back button. So, then I saw Robin Preiss Glasser's watercolor work, and I wanted to get into watercolor. So, I ended up picking up watercolor pens."

From there, her art style began to evolve into what it is today: colorful and mixed medium, depicting scenes and stories that pop into her mind.

In fact, Strong is a storyteller at heart. Behind every one of her pieces is a story. She isn't one to just sit down and draw an image. She likes to think about the characters, the setting and everything that led up to the moment she wants to create. And every now and then, those moments just pop into her head.

"Sometimes, you just sit down, and something just comes to you, and you know it's going to be a good idea," she said. "Even if it doesn't make it anywhere further, you just know it's something. I find that when those moments come to you, then you want to create it. Then you want to go further with it and elaborate. I guess that's what inspires me — when those really odd lightning bolts of creativity come."

There's much more to art than just thinking of something pretty and putting it down on a page. Not only does it take a lot of creative thinking and brainstorming, but it also takes a lot of technical skills. And sometimes, you don't always have the skills required to create your idea.


This is something Strong has run into a few times, but that doesn't stop her from continuing to create. In fact, she's learned quite a bit when met with such challenges along the way. As a student in Perham schools from kindergarten onward, her artistic endeavors were often encouraged. She's gained skills like working in color, three-point perspective and more. And she continues to learn every day to further showcase her talents.

"You see so much in your head, and you feel so much; art is like the middleman," Strong said, explaining how she creates. "You're trying to get people to feel something, and you're trying to get them to see something, but you can't actually tell them … You have to work on the perspective, the expressions, all the tiny details just to get the viewer to see it all and feel it all and hopefully be somewhere on the same wavelength as you."

And soon, once "Fated Clovers" has made its way to Willmar, people statewide will have the chance to observe the perspective, expressions and details of Strong's artwork.

Elizabeth (she/her), 24, graduated with a degree in Journalism and Communications from the University of Wisconsin–Stout in 2020. Elizabeth has always had a passion for telling stories about people and specializes in community features, which she uses for her Perham-centered content.
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