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Art is a powerful tool to share social messages and inspire change. Visual artists like Shepard Fairey, musicians like Beyonce and authors like Mira Jacob have used their creative voices to speak truth to power and raise awareness of the important issues facing us today. Pepco, the DC Public Library Foundation and DC Public Library invited D.C. teens to find their power and use it to creatively address a topic that is important to them. 

We were overwhelmed by the amazing pieces that were submitted. They were not only well-crafted but had a strong voice and perspective on a wide variety of subjects pertaining to civic engagement. The winners in the four categories Visual Art, Writing, Music and Photography received prizes that will help the winners continue to explore their creativity.

Learn More About the Know Your Power Teen Arts Contest

Visual Art

Winner | Frederick, 16 | Petworth Library

Artist Statement | My oil painting "Good Days" is a self portrait reflecting on the innocence and simplicity of childhood. Through the burdens of life and age, I have lost that innocence and simplicity. I have gotten trapped in the complexity of social media, school, my own mind, academic pressure, and life's daily problems, so I decided to escape it by returning to my 5th birthday party. 11 years ago was a time filled with popsickles, caprisun's, and patchy smiles with missing teeth; through this paintings use of playful colors and imagined shapes, I hoped to return to that place of comfort and euphoria. 

Oil painitng of a group of children walking in a line

Runner-Up | Grace, 16 | Mt. Pleasant Library

Artist Statement | This piece [Academic Pressures] was made to highlight the academic pressures students face not only by the school itself but other successful classmates. In a world that is hyper-focused on grades and a perfect score, I wanted to show the crushing feeling that assignments and quizzes bring onto a student through the body language and placement of the bottom student. 

A collage of grades, comments and feedback from teachers

Runner-Up | McKenzie, 13 | Northwest One Library

Artist Statement | My piece [Homeless Man] is about a sad old man who's homeless. My piece represents change. I want every homeless person to be off the streets and living a nice life.

Pencil sketch of a man with a beard and hat looking down


Winner | David, 17 | Shaw/Watha T. Daniel Library

Artist Statement | This series of photos depicts the decline of Anacostia, Washington, D.C. which consists of a primarily African American population. These people are being left to suffer with a lack of opportunity or care. Frederick Douglass, who once lived in this neighborhood, understood that the struggle for emancipation and equality demanded forceful agitation. “Agitate! Agitate! Agitate!” “If there is no struggle, there is no progress.” I believe that these marginalized communities should fight and demand government aid and greater opportunities over what they are currently being offered. Without protest, there will be no change. We must rise to the occasion and demand more from our government because this historical district of Washington, D.C. cannot be left to continue to fall into disrepair.

Runner-Up | Elliot, 15 | Woodridge Library

Artist Statement | This piece is titled Propeller. It was taken with a Canon camera in 2022. I photoshopped it to up the contrast in order to make the blur of the propeller darker. Then I set it to black and white. Then I used the black brush on the black and white filter layer. I used it to make it so that certain parts of the planes had color.

Photo of a Plane Propeller


Winner | Aya, 15 | Shepherd Park/Juanita E. Thornton Library

Artist Statement | My song, titled Witness discusses the feeling of Imposter Syndrom, identity issues, helplessness and depersonalization that despite running rampant through Gen Z, is not talked about.

Runner-Up | Sadie, 13 | Northeast Library

Artist Statement | This is a song I wrote called "like 7", and the title is said a few times in the song when I refer to my age when someone very close to me began using drugs as a teenager. The whole song circulates around teen drug use, and especially how, though it wasn't intentional, the person close to me who went through that affected me, and the rest of my family. When writing, I tried to include personal details, as well as make points about how this doesn't just affect my family and I, it affects so many. Thinking about all of this inspired me to write this song.


Winner | Andre, 16 | Francis A. Gregory Library

Artist Statement | Substance abuse from the other side.


I have known this man since I was 9. I learned how he actually was when I was 10 within that year. I was exposed to the things he would consume I never thought I could be a victim. I thought I was safe because he was like family he went to my mother for advice he would talk to my sister he is the father of my cousins who I have grown to see as brother and sister. Then one day I saw how the things he consumed would not only affect him but my cousins and in that moment I wanted to protect them even though I didn't know how to. With each year I saw how the things he consumed affected me I've grown to live in fear because of him. The man I knew at the age of 9 was not the same man. The man I know now is filled with rage and violence. I no longer feel safe knowing that he knows where I live. I hate having to look over my shoulder and most of all I hate not seeing my cousins. I hate how his addiction has messed up my family. I hate how it rubbed off on me. I hate that I had to see that growing up. I hate how no one saw the signs. I hate hiding. I hate living in fear. I hate not seeing my cousins. I hate him and I hate how easily I can become him.

Runner-Up | Shauna, 13 | Northwest One Library

Artist Statement | I always spend the summer with my cousins, and leaving their house in preparation for back to school always makes me nervous for the new year and who I'll be.


The end of the summer is quickly approaching, somehow it has managed to slip through my fingers and pass me once again. I embrace the end of august with a cautionary approach, arms scarred by years gone by. Maybe this year will be worse, maybe it wont. Maybe life will be everything i wanted it to be, and maybe there is still time. I know nothing and everything all at once. I know the love of family, of friends. And i know thats all i need. All i meed is the memory of us dancing to 2000s pop music in your room at 1 am, the joy i felt with you and the promise of next year

Audiences: Teens
Type: Stories