Drury High School art teacher Phoebe Pepper, right, and one of her students check out the installation on the Cascade School Supplies building on Brown Street.
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — The newest gallery in North Adams charges no admission. In fact, it doesn't even have a door or a roof.
But it has a wall -- one heck of a wall.
Five dozen works of art created by students at Drury High School are installed on the west wall of the former mill building now occupied by Cascade School Supplies.
It is the third year in a row for the installation, and it is more impressive than ever with works from all three years displayed on the Brown Street edifice.
Under the direction of Drury art teacher Phoebe Pepper, close to 40 students labored for eight to 10 weeks to recreate some of the world's most famous works of art -- from da Vinci's "Mona Lisa" to Dali's "Persistence of Memory."
"As I was driving around town yesterday, it's hard not to notice it's coming alive with various art projects," Cascade President Peter Cote said in a brief Brown Street ceremony on Friday afternoon.
"And our Drury artists deserve to be proud to be part of that art movement that is growing within North Adams."
Mayor Richard Alcombright marveled at the students' craftsmanship and the efforts of Pepper and the Drury art staff.
"The works of art are incredible," Alcombright said. "I grew up in an era in the city of North Adams when we didn't have the type of exposure that these students have today. Quite honestly, for a long time, I thought 'Art' was the guy who lived next door. But this is what it's all about. This is what our school district is all about and what we're trying to provide."
Pepper said the exercise of creating the 42-by-81 paintings on wooden boards is a valuable learning experience for aspiring artists.
"The kids learn so much about how to paint, how to mix colors," she said. "Scaling is a big skill, and it is difficult. Because when you're standing in front of a board that size, working that close is a big challenge. And they overcome it every year."
This year's paintings are on the top row of three that grace the size of the building. About half of this year's 24 paintings were done by individual students in Pepper's advanced program, she said. The rest were done by two to three artists collaborating, which she said may have been even more of a challenge for the students.
The paintings are sealed with a special UVSL varnish manufactured by Golden Paints, and Adams' Waterman Excavating donated equipment to install the art two stories above street level. At Friday's ceremony, Cote and Cascade Vice President Todd Shafer presented the Drury art program with a check for $1,000.
There is room for one more row on the fourth floor of the former mill, and Pepper said that Cote has talked to her already about expanding the project to other sides of the building.
That should make for an even bigger attraction in years to come, and that could make Alcombright's job a little easier.
"The next thing is how do I challenge myself to make sure more people see this," he said. "This has become a real true piece of North Adams and why people cmoe here. I honestly think this is a reason for people to stop in the city.
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