We just returned from our annual visit to explore ArtPrize in Grand Rapids, Michigan.
ArtPrize, now in its seventh year, is a uniquely interactive event designed to engage viewers and artists by creating a community centered on interaction between the two groups.
This was our sixth ArtPrize visit, and as usual, we saw plenty of beautiful art, some cute pieces in a more crafty mode, pieces from artists we've seen exhibit in the past, pieces that raise a bit of controversy or allow you to see something in a way you might not have considered in the past...and left us wishing we had more time to appreciate the artists' work and see more of it.
Michigan Shores by Colleen Wegener (detail of recycled shoes used to create work)
This year, there are more than 1,550 works of art displayed at more than 160 venues across three square miles of this western Michigan city. Venues range from small corners of offices, restaurants or retail buildings to larger venues like Grand Rapids' major museums, concert halls or churches.
There are two $200,000 grand prizes and eight smaller awards in individual categories...more than $500,000 in prizes in all, with half of the prizes determined by public vote and a jury of art experts determining the remainder of the prize awards.
We like to ask locals what venue are the must-see display places each year, and this year we ended up heading over to the DeVos Place Convention Center to check it out at the recommendation of a woman seated next to us in a restaurant the first night we arrived in town. Our informant told us that Devos Place had two floors worth of artwork displayed, and that the artwork also filled the skywalk between the convention center and a downtown hotel.
DeVos Place turned out to be a great place to see a lot of artwork with a minimum of walking outdoors between venues on what turned out to be a rainy day.
We saw one of our favorite, and most thought-provoking, pieces at Devos, a mural painted by Shawn Michael Warren called "In A Promised Land?" that depicted the deadly aftermath of the Tulsa race riot of 1921. The riot, considered by many to be the deadliest incident of racial violence in American history, is one that many of us never heard about in our history classes. There is an interesting film clip of interviews with folks who were young children at the time of the riot on the ArtPrize site.
We like voting for our favorite pieces during the initial stages of public voting during the two-and-a-half-week ArtPrize and seeing if any of our initial choices end up on the short list where a second round of public voting determines some of the ultimate prize winners.
Going to one of the larger venues displaying the work of multiple artists usually insures that you'll see at least one of the pieces that end up in the second-round voting, so we usually try to at least make it to a couple of the larger venues like DeVos Place or the Gerald R. Ford Museum, where several artists always set up their displays in the museum's large fountain out front.
Last year, 41,956 members of the public registered to vote during ArtPrize with a total of 398,714 votes counted to determine the prizes. This year, the ArtPrize site already had more than 260,000 recorded votes from visitors as of last night, with voting continuing yet another week.
We're anxiously awaiting the announcement of this year's Public Vote Final 20 ArtPrize finalists and our opportunity to vote during the competition's second round of public voting!
Check out my ArtPrize 2014 recap or enter "artprize" in the search box near the upper left-hand corner of this page to find other recaps of more previous ArtPrize years.
Text © Dominique King 2015 All rights reserved
Photos © Tim Marks and Dominique King 2015 All rights reserved