It was a grand trip to Grand Rapids for the eighth annual ArtPrize fest. It was an especially pleasurable journey downstate when one’s spouse (Darlene Strand) was among the chosen artists. ArtPrize is a big deal. Really big. About 14,000 artists from around the world apply; approximately, and only, 10% are chosen. The entries come from roughly 45 states and a few dozen foreign countries. And that ten percent represents some of the most unique, creative, sometimes outlandish, always interesting art imaginable. The artwork is displayed at 170 venues around the city, mainly in downtown Grand Rapids, as well as at the Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park, which we’re happy to tell you is alone worth the seven hour ride from the Upper Peninsula. (More on the Meijer Gardens in an upcoming Blog).
BY THE NUMBERS. Some 51 artists from the U.P. are showing their work in ArtPrize. It is not only an exhibition but also a competition, with a total of $500,000 awarded. Recipients are judged by the public as well as by a jury of professional artists. The entries fall into four categories: Two-Dimensional, Three-Dimensional, Time-Based, and Installation. ArtPrize has been described by The Art Newspaper as the most attended public art event on the planet! An estimated 500,000 people will see this year’s festival.
VENUE VARIETY. Venues include locations you would expect, such as galleries, museums, and public parks. Other locales are lobbies (particularly at downtown hotels and theaters), buildings of many sorts, restaurants, bars, bridges, retail stores, walls, churches, markets, even the Department of Corrections, body shops and laundromats. In short, Grand Rapids – both indoors and outside – becomes a gigantic kaleidoscope of the visual arts. Represented are nearly all art forms, including abstract, traditional, modern, graphics, calligraphy, industrial arts, sculpture, photography, etching, ceramics and lots more.
THE CITY. Grand Rapids is a progressive, diverse and really cool city. And one with a sense of humor: a large office building downtown is called The BOB, short for Big Old Building. It is quite-community minded, with hundreds of volunteers in brightly-colored vests, emblazoned with the legend “Ask Me.” They are friendly, well-informed, and help visitors navigate the various and dizzying array of venues. ArtPrize was founded by the DeVos family and their DeVos Place and Performance Center is a key venue in the downtown area, with a large and impressive display of art. If perchance you’ve missed this year’s ArtPrize, we highly recommend it for the future. You’ll truly enjoy it.
– Terry O’Connor