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ArtPrize returns to downtown Grand Rapids

"Nessie," as she is affectionately known, was a favorite in the very first ArtPrize in 2009.  Wikimedia Commons
"Nessie," as she is affectionately known, was a favorite in the very first ArtPrize in 2009. Wikimedia Commons

Many things return with the autumn season. Kids go back to school, leaves fall and ArtPrize transforms downtown Grand Rapids into a walking art gallery.

ArtPrize initially began as an experiment. Its creators hoped to modify the traditional art contest and invent a contest unlike anything anyone has ever experienced.

The sensation that first enthralled Grand Rapids three years ago returns this week, drawing thousands of people to the city.

The art competition was created by social media entrepreneur Rick DeVos, who described ArtPrize during a MLive interview as “the world’s largest excuse to get creative.”

The contest was created to be a different type of art competition and its unique features prove it is.  Many key features of ArtPrize revolutionized art competitions.

The competition begins with an open call to artists, venues and voters. Any artist in the world can enter the competition, any property in downtown Grand Rapids can turn its space into a venue and any visitor can vote for his or her favorite artwork. Voting can take place on mobile devices or online.

This new approach to art and competition has received a warm response. Over three years ArtPrize has received 4,557 artists and over 500 venues, with more than 1 million votes.

In its fourth year, ArtPrize welcomes 1,517 artists from 56 countries and over 45 states and the stakes are higher.  The prize money has increased since ArtPrize’s beginning. $360,000 will be awarded to the most popular work and $200,000 by a panel of jurors.

These jurors will judge the artwork along with voters, allowing contestants to win a cash prize other than the voter’s choice.
Downtown venues will display work from Sept. 19 to Oct.7.

Every year ArtPrize draws national attention but visits from the locals are what really builds community for creativity and social fellowship.

“It is a wonderful opportunity to spend time with friends while exploring downtown and appreciating art,” says Calvin senior Jessie Hulst.

ArtPrize draws hundreds of Calvin students every year. Buck Fridays is making ArtPrize a part of the student events this coming Friday as a way to build community and experience the culture of Grand Rapids.

Senior Jonathan Chong, a Buck Fridays student coordinator, said, “ArtPrize is a big tradition in Grand Rapids and Buck Fridays is here to introduce Calvin students to the tradition and encourage them to attend this yearly event.”

“Events like ArtPrize help Calvin students connect with the community of Grand Rapids as well as the wider art community,” said Hulst. “Plus, ArtPrize lets you see and do things otherwise impossible such as strolling through the elegant hallways of the Amway Grand Plaza hotel, riding freight elevators in the back of old warehouses, finding hidden gems of artwork in backrooms and coming upon strange beasts such as the Loch Ness monster and giant steaming pigs.”

Sophomore Anneke Essenburg also expressed her pleasant experience with ArtPrize.

“I enjoy the atmosphere at ArtPrize, the energy in the air.  I also like the wide variety that is there — things I would never have considered art or just didn’t realize existed. For example, last year there was a man who made a new sand mural every day,” she said.

Some Calvin students and alumni are participating in ArtPrize as well. Their pieces can be found at Calvin’s Gallery (106) on Division or at Fountain Street Church.

About the Author

RaeNosa Hudnell

Raenosa Hudnell is a Chimes guest writer for the 2012-13 school year.

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