Drury art teacher Phoebe Pepper, left, stands with four of the student artists whose work now appears on the Cascade School Supplies building in Brown Street.
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — This was the seventh year new artwork by Drury High School students has been installed on the side of the Cascade School Supplies building on Brown Street.
"Again we stand here in awe," Cascade President Pete Cote said Monday during a brief ceremony.
This was the first year that Mayor Thomas Bernard was on hand during the ceremony to see the art and a handful of the artists first-hand.
"It's incredible," Bernard said.
And this was the last year that Drury High art teacher Phoebe Pepper posed with the students whom she shepherded through the process and accepted the annual monetary donation from Cascade, which also donates the wood and supplies.
Pepper is retiring from teaching and is ready to turn the reins over to someone else - a person to be named later, she said, who she hopes will carry on this new tradition and collaboration.
"I'm happy to consult," Pepper said Monday after taking one last picture of a student and his art: Noah Hunt with his study of Edvard Munch's "The Scream."
Noah Hunt poses with this study of Edward Munch's 'The Scream.'
Pepper said she is so proud of the seven-year collaboration with Cascade, which saw the installation of four years of art on the west-facing side of the building, then two years around the corner on the south-facing side.
For this year, the first year's art on the bottom level of the west side was taken down - both to give space to this year's artists but also because, after more than half a decade exposed to the elements, the artwork was showing its age. The original art was given back to Drury (where the principal will decide what to do with it, Pepper said) and replaced by the new 18 paintings, some of which repeated an original work in a nod to the Drury alum of seven years ago who initiated the project.
A well-wisher photographs some of the new paintings on the Cascade building.
That's only natural, as the classroom project has become quite popular at the high school. Every fall, she said, students come to her with one question: "Are we the ones who get to do this this year?"
"It becomes a great big happening for them," she said, explaining how they get experience using color and techniques like grids to transfer their idea from a photograph to a large painting.
"What's beautiful to me is the artist's process the students learn," she said. "They always achieve it. It's always difficult. They always push through."
That persistence leads to an amazing display of public art - art that is on the walking art tour map given to tourists at Mass MoCA and art that inspires visitors who happen by to take pictures of what would otherwise by a plain old office building on the outskirts of downtown North Adams.
"It's inspiring to realize we have students producing artwork on this level," Bernard said. "This is a destination of public art for North Adams."
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