BF student wins statewide art contest

20 western states and territories compete in June for first place

By Ben Olson
Reader Staff

It’s not everyday the governor recognizes you on social media. That’s just what happened to Bonners Ferry student Cason Neal, whose artwork was chosen as the state winner for the Western Governors’ Association’s 4th annual “Celebrate the West” High School Art Competition.

Neal, a homeschooler in the 12th grade, submitted his piece “Mountain Beauty” after learning about the art contest from a Twitter post by Gov. Little a few months ago.

“I was very surprised and glad that the governor was pleased with the painting and was supporting me in the contest,” Neal said.

Cason Neal.


The “Celebrate the West” contest challenges participants to create an original, two-dimensional piece of artwork inspired by their state or informed by living in the West. Winning artists will receive cash prizes, as well as have their work displayed at a WGA Governors’ meeting in Colorado in June. The contest is open to 20 states and territories, with the first place winner receiving $1,200, second place $750 and third place $500, as well as $200 awarded to the remaining state finalists.

Neal said he’s been an artist about four years, working primarily in graphite pencils and acrylic paints.

“My favorite art subject is wildlife and more specifically birds,” Neal said.

An avid birder and also a hunter, Neal chose to create a piece of art to depict the mountain bluebird, which is the state bird of Idaho.

“One of my favorite birds in Idaho is the mountain bluebird,” Neal said. “Early this spring, at my house, I was able to observe several mountain bluebirds at close distance. This largely inspired me to pick the mountain bluebird as my subject for the contest. Also, the background mountains are the Sawtooth Mountains down in southern Idaho.”

“Mountain Beauty” by Cason Neal, which was selected as Idaho’s winner in the “Celebrate the West” high school art competition.

Neal made a special point to mention his grandma, Tami Neal, as an inspiration to his work.

“I would like to mention my grandma, Tami Neal, who has encouraged me very much in fine tuning my artistic abilities,” Neal said. “Also, I would like to mention and congratulate my friend Tawya Thompson who won, in the same contest, for the state of Montana.”

Cason Neal’s artwork “Mountain Beauty” will be judged at the WGA Governors’ meeting in Boulder, Colo. June 12.

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