ArtPrize winners: Mia Tavonatti’s 2011 emotional roller coaster

Crucifixion by Mia Tavonatti
Mia Tavonatti's "Crucifixion" won the grand prize during ArtPrize 2011. It took 2,500 hours to create the 425-pound stained glass mosaic. (Photo credit: ArtPrize)

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD)— From Marriott resorts and Harrah’s casinos to the Smithsonian Institution, ArtPrize winner Mia Tavonatti is leaving her artistic mark across the world.

It was an emotional roller coaster to victory for Tavonatti, whose mother died just hours before she was crowned the winner of ArtPrize 2011.

Tavonatti faced her own health struggles two years later, when she was diagnosed with a brain tumor.

Fortunately, the tumor was benign and Tavonatti quickly returned to creating art.

Tavonatti originally created her winning piece, “Crucifixion” for Saint Kilian’s Catholic Church in Orange County, California.

It was the first altarpiece she had ever made.

When the new church faced construction delays, Tavonatti decided to enter her work into ArtPrize.

Tavonatti said spent 2,500 hours building the glass mosaic, which is 9 feet wide and 13 feet tall.

On the ArtPrize website, she said it took two cross-country trips to get the 425 pound piece to Grand Rapids.

“Crucifixion” was originally on display at DeVos Place during ArtPrize; it now calls Cornerstone University home.

Tavonatti won $350,000 from ArtPrize for “Crucifixion” and her 2010 entry “Svelata,” which came in second place.

On her Facebook page, Tavonatti wrote “Svelata” was later purchased by a private collector, who hung it in their formal dining

After Tavonatti’s 2011 victory, ArtPrize organizers changed the competition rules so the top 10 artists wouldn’t be allowed back, giving new artists a chance to rise to the top.

Since ArtPrize, Tavonatti has taken her artwork on tour in Italy and joined the elite Air Force Arts Program, which is charged with recording history through art that is displayed at national institutions.

The Michigan native also continues to teach at Laguna College of Art + Design in California and create paintings and glass mosaics, according to her professional website.


ArtPrize –

Mia Tavonatti –

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