ArtPrize winner's mother dies on day of announcement | News
GRAND RAPIDS (WZZM) -- Mia Tavonatti says she was hoping to share her victory in ArtPrize 2011 -- if she won -- with her mother, who has been ill.
But Tavonatti's mother died Thursday morning, hours before contest founder Rick DeVos announced she had won the grand prize.
Tavonatti met with reporters after the announcement, saying her $250,000 victory was tempered by sorrow.
When Tavonatti walked on the stage to accept the top prize, she was visibly not as excited as she was in 2010, when she came in second in ArtPrize. But she told reporters there was good reason for her bittersweet feeling.
"She got pneumonia," Tavonatti explained, "and had a really unexpected turn for the worse."
One of the happiest days in her life -- winning ArtPrize -- is also one of the saddest. "I was hoping to be able to go up and share this with her," said Tavonatti. "But she's here."
Tavonatti created her piece, "Crucifixion," on commission as an altar piece for a church, but when the church's construction project was delayed she decided to enter it in ArtPrize.
"When you bring Christ to town...I just knew he had certain things in store for me," she said Thursday night. "I wasn't going to tell him how to do his job."
The winners of ArtPrize are decided by popular vote. Many festival visitors said they were touched by Tavonatti's piece. "It's a terrific piece," said Carol Broene. "Very meaningful."
Tavonatti's piece took first place out of 1,583 entries. She stood by her creation day after day during the festival, and said she saw how people connected to her stained-glass work.
"One woman walked in," Tavonatti remembered. "She was crying -- an elderly woman -- and she said, 'My mom died a year ago today, and when I walked in and saw this I knew he was looking down on me'."
Under new ArtPrize rules Tavonatti cannot enter the 2012 edition of the contest, but she says she will still be a fan. "I think it's the most avant garde arena in art out there, and I think it's amazing."
"Crucifixion" is now the property of ArtPrize. It will continue to hang at its current venue, DeVos Place, for several months. Later, it will be moved to another venue where people can see and appreciate it for years to come.