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The Obama Portraits Teen Poetry Competition Winners

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Explore these poems, written by Chicago high school poets, inspired by The Obama Portraits.

The Obama Portraits Teen Poetry Competition was created in collaboration with the museum’s Teen Council Interns and was open to all Chicago high school teens. Twenty-six young people submitted their poems, and 9 winners were selected by an intergenerational jury of poets and artists. Teen Council members also wrote poems to help design the competition, and we are pleased to include them here. 

Thank you to our jurors:
Jasper Abdullah
, Teen Council member
Jacoby Cochran
, writer, editor and storyteller, and host of City Cast podcast
Tia Hudson, Teen Council member
Dominique James
, event host, performer, and teaching artist
Josê Olivarez
, poet and author of Citizen Illegal
Simone Reynolds
, poet
Veronica Stein
, Woman’s Board Executive Director Learning and Public Engagement, Art Institute of Chicago

Poems inspired by Kehinde Wiley’s Barack Obama
Poems inspired by Amy Sherald’s Michelle LaVaughn Robinson Obama
Poems Inspired by Both Portraits
Teen Council Poems

Poems inspired by Kehinde Wiley’s Barack Obama

A painting shows President Obama sitting in a wooden, arms resting on knees, against a backdrop of lush greenery and flowers.

Barack Obama, 2018


Kehinde Wiley. Oil on canvas. National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution. © 2018 Kehinde Wiley. The National Portrait Gallery is grateful to the generous donors who made these commissions possible and proudly recognizes them at npg.si.edu/obamaportraitstour. Support for the national tour has been generously provided by Bank of America

  • Winner

    Brooks Lansana

    • Runner-Up

      Hinisha Malone

    • Runner-Up

      Naysa Sutherlin

  • Poems inspired by Amy Sherald’s Michelle LaVaughn Robinson Obama

    A painting of First Lady Michelle Obama sitting wearing a striking graphic evening gown against a pale blue backdrop.

    Michelle LaVaughn Robinson Obama, 2018


    Amy Sherald. Oil on linen. National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution. The National Portrait Gallery is grateful to the generous donors who made these commissions possible and proudly recognizes them at npg.si.edu/obamaportraitstour. Support for the national tour has been generously provided by Bank of America

    • Winner

      Annie Wu

    • Runner-Up

      Saleha Abdou

    • Honorable Mention

      Jimmy Rodgers

  • Poems Inspired by Both Portraits

    Side-by-side images of Kehinde Wiley’s portrait of President Barack Obama and Amy Sherald’s portrait of former First Lady Michelle Obama. President Obama, wearing a dark suit, sits amid bright-green foliage, and Michelle Obama sits against a pale-blue background in a black and white dress with a colored geometric print.

    (L) Kehinde Wiley. Barack Obama, 2018. Oil on canvas. © Kehinde Wiley. (R) Amy Sherald. Michelle LaVaughn Robinson Obama (detail), 2018. Oil on linen.


    National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution. The National Portrait Gallery is grateful to the generous donors who made these commissions possible and proudly recognizes them at npg.si.edu/obamaportraitstour. Support for the national tour has been generously provided by Bank of America

    • Winner

      Reginae Echols

    • Runner-Up

      Hassam Zafar

    • Honorable Mention

      Khalyah Adams-Thompson

  • Teen Council Poems

    • Jasper Abdullah

    • Akira (Kai) Sinnott

    • Finley Williams

  • The Obama Portraits Tour is organized by the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery, Washington, DC. 

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    National Sponsor

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    SPONSORS

    The Art Institute thanks the many supporters who have funded the Chicago presentation, as well as access, education, and programming.

    Lead Corporate Sponsor for the Chicago Presentation

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    Lead Individual Supporters 
    Lester Coney and Denise Gardner

    Corporate Programming Sponsor

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    Leadership support is contributed by Illinois Tool Works and the Leadership Advisory Committee of the Art Institute of Chicago.

    Major funding is provided by the Blanchard-Nesbitt Family; Suzette and Ally Bulley; Francesca and Liam Connell; Anne and Don Edwards; Paul, Dedrea, and Ian Gray, In the Works Foundation; Guida Family Foundation; Cheryl and Eric McKissack; and Peggy A. Montes.

    Special support is contributed by Julia Langdon Antonatos and Larry Antonatos, Ariel Investments, Caroline Brown and Cairy Saltwell Brown, Ann Collins, Kevann M. Cooke, Marilyn and Larry Fields, Nickol and Darrel Hackett, Mellody Hobson, Linda Johnson Rice, The Joyner/Giuffrida Collection, the Langdon Neal Family, Fay and Daniel Levin, and Marisa Murillo.

    Additional support is provided by Jozy Altidore, Azeeza, Chanel Coney, Javon Coney, Don and Kristen Crawley, Allison and Susan Davis, Andrea Ellis, Steven Galanis, Kyle and Ashley Gardner, Andre Iguodala, Olivia John, Jasmine Jordan, Deven Rand, Alexa Rice, and Sloane Stephens.

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