I first heard murmurings of ArtPrize two years ago from my Michigan friends. From what I understood, it was a sort of street festival with art that a lot of people liked to go to. Last year I had a friend who displayed at ArtPrize, and this year was my first opportunity to see a bit of it firsthand. First of all, I’m ticked I had to leave before ArtPrize officially kicks off this Wednesday and, secondly, I can’t believe I’ve lived in Indiana all this time and have never been. (This year marks the 5th year of ArtPrize in Grand Rapids, Michigan.)
“For 19 days, three square miles of downtown Grand Rapids, Michigan become an open playing field where anyone can find a voice in the conversation about what is art and why it matters. Art from around the world pops up in every inch of downtown, and it’s all free and open to the public.“
Anyone over the age of 18 can submit a piece of art (and believe me, the art can be anything!) and through ArtPrize, venues in Grand Rapids are able to work together with artists to collaborate and create tiny little galleries and corners of art all over downtown Grand Rapids. When I arrived late Friday night, there were already some sculptures in the lobby of my hotel. Saturday night, an 11′ lit winged woman floated past the restaurant I was having dinner at. As I left breakfast on Sunday morning there were four men in the middle of the river putting together giant metal rods, as miles of painted canvas lined the Riverwalk. The best part is that this is art for anyone, the winning piece, the one that takes the $200,000 prize is decided by the public. Voting is done through a smartphone app and is geolocated, so only people at ArtPrize can vote.
First year’s attendance was around 250,000 people, and this year more than a half a million people are expected to descend upon Grand Rapids for 19 days of art everywhere. Many of the pieces are for sale and, depending on when you’re around, there’s a very good chance you could run into the artist themselves. I took myself on a little walking tour of downtown on Saturday (four days before the official start of ArtPrize) and these are just a few of the pieces I found (there was a whole lot more but most didn’t have artist information displayed yet). You can see all the entries (and past winners) here, from a 26′ dragon on wheels that breathes fire to a 72′ painting of a banana split.
ArtPrize really is art for everyone. It isn’t stuffy, it isn’t snooty, it’s accessible, exciting, creative, and real. If you’re within driving distance, it’s a must see, and certainly worth working into your schedule in subsequent years. ArtPrize starts tomorrow, Wednesday, September 18th, and runs through October 6th. Visit Grand Rapids’ official visitor’s site to get the total inside scoop on ArtPrize!
Find more of Casey’s writing on her blog moosh in indy or her Babble Voices site Shutterlovely. She’s also available on twitter, facebook, flickr and Instagram. If you can’t find her any of those places? Check the couch, she’s probably taking a nap.