The last few weeks have been quite abuzz in Grand Rapids, with the second annual ArtPrize competition. What is ArtPrize you say? Well, it's Rick DeVos' contribution to the Grand Rapids community -- a very public art show and contest with a very substantial set of prizes totaling over $450,000 voted on by the public. It is said to be the largest public art prize anywhere, which of course is the big draw for the artists. The 2009 ArtPrize took everyone by surprise, what with the interest and the numbers of people who both viewed and voted. ArtPrize 2010 turned out to be even bigger and more successful, with art and artists pulled in from all over.
No, I didn't go downtown and no I didn't vote. I've been nursing a bad back/leg and so tons of walking wasn't for me. And they've got the voting set up so that you have to register onsite, so you have to actually BE there at least once to vote. This is not American Idol where you can vote 10 times a day nonsense.
And The Winner Is...
Grand Rapids artist Chris LaPorte's 28-foot-wide pencil drawing "Cavalry, American Officers, 1921" won the ArtPrize 2010's $250,000 top prize on Thursday.
You may think you've seen this picture before -- just a black & white photograph of some Army officers. But while this began from a faded photo bought in an antique store, this huge life size pencil drawing had such detail and such work, that it brought tears to many of the viewers.
This year there was also a juried award, for those who felt that a strict popularity contest by the public might not pick the truly worthy pieces of art. I believe their top 10 only included two of the public top 10, and the jury's selections also enriched the whole conversation -- so good on them for including this in ArtPrize 2010.
And indeed, there are complaints that the top 10 nominees from the first week by the public were all large works, in the main center of downtown, and seemed to reward sentimentality and hard work over artistic creation. *** So be it. The fact is there WERE over 1700 pieces of art and there WERE over 400,000 votes cast, and for over two weeks the news was dominated by ART.
Still, I have to say that the weather has cooperated mightily, and after the surprise of the first year, the many downtown restaurants and coffee shops managed to sustain the crowds. And there have been some good suggestions about how to modify the voting to give much more visibility to all the works -- one would add a third weekend to the contest and have an initial nomination list of 100 works before the top 10 are voted on, another would break the downtown into several regions and have nominees from each area. There is no question in my mind that there will be an ArtPrize 2011 and it will be amazing, too.
I definitely feel bad about not ever getting around to posting about ArtPrize 2009 -- what with a giant table and chairs erected atop the Blue Bridge downtown and a giant foam sculpture of Nessie in the Grand River (and now to be displayed at the John Ball Park Zoo). And this posting is too late to do any good attracting anyone to the art or the voting this year. But I shall endeavor to do better. And with two successful years under its belt, ArtPrize is not going to be a one-hit wonder.
Art. In Grand Rapids, Michigan. With thousands of entries and hundreds of thousands of viewers. Who'd've thunk it?
*** - This would sort of preclude a friend of ours, who created a metal tree sculpture on display outside of the Grand Rapids Public Library, from having any kind of "real chance" at winning ArtPrize 2010. If I were running things, I'd have some additional prize pools for some of the smaller collections away from the big central venues and large works.