By Ed Karvoski Jr., Contributing Writer
Westborough – Michelle Stevens, a senior at Westborough High School (WHS), answered the call as one of only five artists selected to display a mural in the inaugural “Blank Canvas” of the fourth Boston Calling, a music festival held Sept. 5 to 7 at City Hall Plaza in Boston.
“If everyone at the festival walked by my art once, that’s 45,000 people seeing it, so that’s pretty cool,” she said. “Another highlight was getting to go there free because I really like music.”
Each of the five chosen artists was awarded a $1,000 cash prize and four VIP passes to the festival’s three days of entertainment.
Stevens attended the debut Boston Calling in May 2013. Since then, the festival has been held each spring and fall. She’s on the festival’s email list and read about the new “Blank Canvas.”
According to a statement from the festival producers, “Blank Canvas” offered artists “the opportunity to concept and create a 36” x 60” mural inspired by Boston Calling.” Artists were asked to submit concepts of their mural ideas with a 100-word description of the submission.
Stevens learned by email while in Florida that she was selected from hundreds of submissions.
“When I got back home I started working on it in my room nonstop,” she relayed. “The deadline was Labor Day and I brought it into Boston the day before.”
Her mural, done in acrylic paint and ink, depicts several lead singers and musicians of the recent festival’s lineup of acts.
“I immediately knew that I wanted to choose many of the band leaders and I did their faces,” she explained. “That, to me, represents the spirit of the festival. Because the festival at City Hall Plaza is such an intimate experience, I wanted to make it look like the band leaders were looking back at the people. I’ve always liked doing faces and portraits, so that’s what I thought I’d have the most fun doing.”
Also a music fan, Stevens enjoyed the festival’s musicians, some of whose images she captured on her mural.
“The lineup was probably as good as the first festival, which I thought was fantastic,” she said.
“Blank Canvas” is one more credit for her resume and college applications. She has also been recognized with Boston Globe Scholastic Art Awards, having won a Silver Key as a freshman, and two Gold Keys and a Silver as a junior.
On the festival’s final day, Stevens was surprised when attendees included some classmates and John Hayes, her visual arts teacher at WHS.
“I’ve had some previous success stories over the years, but not like Michelle Stevens,” Hayes said. “She got two Silver Keys and two Gold Keys, which in my career has been unheard of for a student to hit four homeruns and two grand slams.”
Hayes feels that Stevens scored highly again with this mural, which was also displayed locally Sept. 27 at Arts in Common.
“It’s fabulous for a 17-year-old, high school student to get one of the five places of recognition,” he said. “Her portrait drawings make contact with you; they make an internal connection. I’ve seen her do the research over the years. It isn’t just one picture that she tries to copy; she uses a photo as a springboard and takes it to a different level so that the viewer is engaged in the imagery.”
Stevens added, “I see art as a manifestation of the human imagination. It fascinates me.”
The “Blank Canvas” experience taught Stevens a valuable lesson.
“You’re never too young to go after something,” she said. “If you’re serious about it, really want it and believe in yourself, then you can accomplish it.”