After her success in a recent competition, Sarah Tobias believes her skills as an artist can be put to good use.
The 2010 Clay City High School graduate, 18, recently had one of her pieces on display at the Congressional Art Competition in Washington, D.C.
Students from across the country were allowed to compete in the contest. Clay City art teacher Brett Haviland chose Tobias from the 8th District.
Prior to graduating earlier this year, Tobias learned her piece would be on display.
"They called my mom," Tobias said. "It was a number she didn't recognize. She almost didn't answer."
Tobias learned of the competition only weeks before the project was due.
"It was done very quickly," she said.
Tobias' art teacher, Brett Haviland, said she had a feeling the student had a chance in the contest.
"I picked Sarah because I knew that she would be creative," Haviland said. "She's not actually been in all of my advanced classes, but she has a lot of talent."
She chose to sculpt a mosaic piece regarding the future of America, calling it "Welcome to the Future," based on the song of the same name by country artist Brad Paisley.
"Mostly, it was just because I like Brad Paisley," Tobias said. "I love all of his songs.
"The song is about our country and I knew this was a competition for the Capitol Building so it was history related."
In the song, Paisley sings how the country has changed since his childhood.
"He talks about simple things," Tobias said. "He talks about watching TV in the car when he couldn't 10 years ago."
She elected to create an image of Martin Luther King Jr. -- who is mentioned in the song -- visible through broken glass.
"He's the most recognizable face, I thought," Tobias said. "We now have an African-American president. I just thought it fit the time."
A banner in the piece declares "Welcome To The Future."
Tobias said she used clay and melted glass in the piece in addition to little pieces of mirror.
"When you look at the piece, you would think of what you contributed to the future," she said.
Although she had only a few weeks to put together something for the project, Tobias said many ideas filtered through her mind.
"We went through several ideas about what I was going to do," she said. "It just hit me that I wanted to do something with Brad Paisley. That song, it was just perfect for what the competition was."
"There was a lot of trial and error," Haviland said. "She tried things that she didn't like. She was willing to try things and if she didn't like it, she'd try something else."
After learning her piece would be on display and that she was chosen as the winner of Indiana's 8th District, Southwest Airlines offered two plane tickets to her to fly to Washington, D.C.
She was accompanied on the trip by her mother, Ruth Tobias.
Tobias had been to Washington, D.C., when she was younger. But this time, she got to savor the experience.
"It was awesome that I got a free trip," she said.
While there, she and her mother attended an awards ceremony June 17, in Washington, D.C., along with hundreds of other winners nationwide.
While there, they had an opportunity to see the piece on display.
"I was a little shocked," Haviland said of learning Tobias had won, "because we're going up against so many bigger schools. For a small school like Clay City that only had one entry, that was pretty impressive."
Prior to going, they also arranged to meet with United States Rep. Brad Ellsworth (D-Evansville), who represents the 8th District.
"We knew we were going to meet him," Tobias said. "He saw all of Indiana's pieces before he knew which one was from his district. When I described it, he said he hoped that was the one."
"(Sarah's) reaction was that (her piece) had a little more of a political message to it than what she was seeing with the other artwork," Haviland added.
All of the artwork will remain on display for one year until next year's contest.
"I have never tried to put (the piece) into words," Tobias said. "It's awesome to realize that maybe I do have a future in art because it's always something I've enjoyed. I'm glad maybe it's something I'm good at."
Tobias plans to attend the University of Southern Indiana in the fall to study art-related subjects.