Teen artists on exhibit at Mass MoCA


NORTH ADAMS — Local student artists aren't becoming any less talented, but it's no secret that the budgets for school arts programs are shrinking.

Each year in the Berkshires, local cultural institutions are reaching out to offer additional or continued commitments to provide arts partnerships and educational and exhibition opportunities.

Back in February, the Norman Rockwell Museum in Stockbridge celebrated its 30th year of hosting the Berkshire County High School Art Show, and IS183 Art School of the Berkshires is expanding its Learning Through the Arts exhibitions. And on Friday, the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art will celebrate its sixth annual Teen Invitational art showcase.

"We really wanted to show the great work teens are doing in school and also out of school," said Laura Thompson, Mass MoCA's director of education and curator of Kidspace. "There's great art happening in the schools, even though arts resources are limited."

A free, public reception and awards ceremony with live music for the Teen Invitational will be held at 7 p.m. Friday. The exhibition of 233 works will be on view through Sunday in Mass MoCA's first floor space, with regular museum admission.

"This event usually feels quite exciting and exuberant," Thompson said. "People are cheering each other on, families and other students are there to support their friends, and there's a lot of camaraderie among the schools as well."

Mass MoCA senior museum educator Amanda Tobin said a total of 233 works, including four pieces from teachers, will be on display from Northern Berkshire schools, including: Berkshire Arts and Technology Charter Public School in Adams, Buxton School in Williamstown, Drury High School in North Adams, Hoosac Valley Regional Middle and High School in Cheshire, McCann Technical School in North Adams, Mount Greylock Regional High School and Pine Cobble School, both in Williamstown. Each participant was allowed to submit one work.

The students of Drury High School's Phoebe Pepper have been contributing works to the show since its inception.

"I thought it was fantastic and very appropriate for our students, especially to be in a professional arts venue," Pepper said.

At Drury, advanced art students are trained to prepare portfolios for college and ready their art to be shown in school exhibits and at other community events when the opportunities arise.

"I think this show helps heighten that awareness and process for them and gives them a chance to look at the progress they've made throughout the year," she said.

Pepper noted that despite the fact that the school's down an art teacher, the visual and performing arts departments at the school are trying to offer as many opportunities as possible for students to express their creativity and skills.

Unlike the Rockwell show, the Teen Invitational at Mass MoCA is juried, in the sense that their work is judged and cash awards are made to support their schools' art departments. They also can earn individual prizes and tuition towards taking classes at the Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts.

"This event is one of the highlights of our year," said Mass MoCA Director Joseph Thompson in a written statement. "The quality of the student art and the commitment of our local high school art teachers are both impressive, but it's the rollicking atmosphere of the opening night that I find so spectacular and invigorating."

This year's work includes various mediums of painting, as well as sculpture and ceramics, photography and digital art, prints and more. The show was curated and installed in part by Mass MoCA's Teen Advisory Board.

"This generation is one of the most creative generations I've seen in my 25 years [as an art teacher]," Pepper said. "I think it's a real eye-opener for [community members] to see what expertise has already been gained in such a young age group; you can see the thought process they've brought to their work in addition to the skills."

She said she also hopes the exhibit makes concrete the need for more investment in arts education.

"It's been really made clear by the teachers associations and arts endowments and in curriculum in the schools, that when you want students to succeed, arts has to be incorporated, It has to be STEAM," Pepper said, referring to an educational acronym for science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics. "Not just STEM.

"Art really helps them in every other area in life," she said, "whether they become a professional artist or not."

Contact Jenn Smith at 413-496-6239.

See a video of last year's opening at http://ow.ly/4ndqjT


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