NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — Garrett Rhoads was inspired when he looked into a little box on a piano, wondering what it was.
The box held a spool of perforated paper to make the piano play.
“I knew what it was because I have seen them before,” the Pine Cobble School eighth-grader said. “I just, I loved how it looked. And so I wanted to do something with it.”
He unspooled the paper and liked the movement it made as it fluttered. So he created a waterfall of four pieces with an accent in the middle of printed words and fingerprints.
“We were using ink and I actually got it on my fingers and I put it on my piece of paper almost as like a signature because every fingerprint is different,” he said. “And I really loved how that looked as well and so I thought I could combine them in different ways to make something unique.”
Garrett’s unique piece found the perfect spot to be displayed — from the Juliet balcony in Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art’s main first-floor gallery.
It also won him a runner-up for the grand prize in the 9th annual Teen Invitational of Friday night.
Nearly 300 artworks were on view over the weekend at Mass MoCA for the event that provides a platform for local high school students to display their creations and to encourage arts education.
“We have an amazing amount of depth and breadth to the work that is on view tonight,” said Amanda Tobin, the museum’s associate director for school and community engagement. “A total of 273 creative works ranging from oil paintings, photography, ceramics and drawings to a print me from a piece of wood and installation using slides and a bridesmaid Dress, a work of sound art, and many, many more works that demonstrate the immense creativity and thoughtfulness of these amazing young artists.”
Tobin and Laura Thompson, the director of education, announced the winners of the invitational at a party with the Drury High jazz band in the Hunter Center that followed the public reception on Friday night.
Kirsten Shang of Buxton School was the grand prize winner, earning a Gold Award and $200 cash prize; her classmate Elijah O’Neill was, with Garrett, a runner-up, winning a Gold Award and $75 cash prize each.
The Gold Awards were also presented to other participants and came with a one-year Mass MoCA family membership and a financial contribution to their school’s art department. Leslie van Breen, executive director of the Artist Book Foundation, with offices on the Mass MoCA campus, also donated art books to schools as she has the past three years.
Every participant also got a pass to the upcoming O+ Festival, courtesy of the festival organizers.
Christopher Fortier of Hoosac Valley High School won his second consecutive award, this year from Common Folk. (Last year it was presented by the now defunct Makers Mill). The prize came with a Gold Award and a one-year creator with benefits membership at the Common Folk Artist Collective.
Fortier’s freakish clay bust was a self-portrait to express some of the personal struggles he’s experienced over the past year, including the death of his father. It was also the first time he’s worked in clay though he has worked with headpieces for costumes.
“I like working in 3D because there’s only so much you can express in two-dimensional and I really just wanted to expand my comfort zone,” he said. “I went through a lot of things over the summer that really affected me and my perception of self that I just wanted to express myself inside dark times. And I put that all into work that would inspire others.”
Thompson and Tobin also presented the first sets of Phoebe Pepper grants to art teachers and named after the visual arts instructor at Drury High School.