SENECA FALLS — It hasn’t been a banner summer for traveling, but 15-year-year-old Grace Lando still managed a quick getaway — thanks to an invitation from first lady Melania Trump.
Lando, accompanied by her parents Matt and Stephanie and 10-year-old sister Maddie, traveled to Washington, D.C. last Monday for the opening of an art exhibit celebrating the 100th anniversary of the ratification of the 19th amendment, the landmark legislation that guaranteed a woman’s right to vote.
Earlier this summer Lando learned her pencil drawing of suffragists Ida B. Wells and Alice Paul had been chosen to represent New York in “Building the Movement: America’s Youth Celebrate 100 Years of Women’s Suffrage.” The exhibit was organized by the Women’s Suffrage Centennial Commission, the Office of the White House Curator, and the Office of the First Lady. It features one selection from each of the 50 states.
Just a few weeks ago Lando was informed she and the other young artists would be celebrated at the White House Aug. 24. Her family awoke at 5 a.m. that day to make the trip; once in D.C., her father dropped off Lando and her mom since only one person was allowed to accompany her due to COVID-19 restrictions.
Of the 50 young artists whose drawings were chosen, Lando said 32 made the trip to the nation’s capital.
“It was a good showing,” she said.
These young girls and young women — plus their guests — were treated to the first tour of the White House given since COVID-19 shuttered the country in March. Lando described an intense security screening that also included rapid COVID testing for all the guests — none of whom tested positive, she said. Masks were required, she added.
“It was amazing. It was really cool,” Lando said of the tour, adding the Blue Room was her favorite.
The group then headed to a walkway outside of the White House, where images of their drawings were affixed to large blocks, as were personal descriptions of each of their pieces and the states each artist represented. Lando said the First Lady gave a nice speech before walking through the display and speaking with each visitor individually.
Lando described Melania Trump as “very nice and very pretty,” and said she asked if Lando had enjoyed creating her drawing.
She added that the First Lady told her “it was really fun picking through all (the submissions) from all the states, but mine really stood out to her.”
In a prior interview, Lando explained that she chose Paul, who actually proposed the Equal Rights Amendment at The Presbyterian Church in Seneca Falls, and Wells, a civil rights activist, because she wanted to highlight lesser-known suffrage figures.
The exhibit’s selections ranged from portraits of suffragettes to symbols and renditions of places and time in history. Even a 5-year-old’s artwork was chosen, Lando said.
After a whirlwind 24 hours, the rising Mynderse Academy sophomore and her family returned to Seneca Falls — her hometown and the Birthplace of Women’s Rights. Lando plans to take advanced art this coming school year and is still drawing — although her current project might not land her an invitation to the White House.
The subject? An octopus.