Amway/Rick DeVos funded (1 prize $250k to 1 artist; 20k to most popularly voted venue, 560k in prize money total) + 1,524 artists and 168 venues who sign-up to partner via a to a “speed-date system + vibrant, walkable downtown who welcome an additional 500k visitors for 2 weeks (bringing an estimated 15m economic impact) + ANYBODY can vote for their fave, not once (“ugh, don’t make me feel dumb by asking me to pick the best work of art!”) but vote for as many things that float your boat + really high production value in graphics, wayfinding, “info hubs,” and apps (google Grand Rapids impact history of design) + a guiding principle to spark conversations about and around art = a one of a kind art experience / social experiment. That’s gotta be good right?
But what about the art?
I arrive in Grand Rapids Thursday afternoon by driving up one of the main drags downtown that curves around right in front of the Grand Rapids Art Museum – a very modern multi-level glass and angled thing sprawled in the center of park, nestled with food trucks, a Maya Lynn public amphitheater and bustling small town/downtown city sidewalks. And I mean bustling. Folks with maps in their hands. Wait. With smartphones in their hands. Hundreds of “em. Voting via the geo-targeting ArtPrize app. Right there in broad daylight in the middle of the street.
And thus begins the adventure.
As a guest of my former colleague (read: my old boss invited me to tag along) I enter the staff side of the museum, intros all around and we’re off. Up the street we run, past many more Amway-funded entities to DeVos Hall – basically a convention center filled with art. Atrium, hallways, you name it. Hours. Hundreds of pieces. Hundreds of people voting. Everywhere.
On a Thursday afternoon. Some artists sitting near their works like at art shows/festivals, some with short list, top 25, popular and guest juror designee signage. All with clear, distinct signage, artist info (international but 90% of what I saw US/Midwest) artists statement, info about media. Some good art. Some bad art. Some artists I recognize. Or recognize what they are trying to do. I’m told the first few years works had to be no more than 1 year old to keep things fresh, contemporary.
After a few enterprising artists re-purposed works year after year, organizers figured screw it and opened it up to any year by living artists. Nice dinner with a group of collectors and then a pub tour of sorts, including stops at a burning man type outdoor street party and a few brew pubs (note Dayton: GR calls it self the beer city). Did I mention hundreds of people voting? everywhere. After a walk back to the hotel, a nightcap and a slide show to complete strangers in the hotel bar of my top 40 of the day, I called it a night.
Friday began with a tour of GRAMs Top 25 ArtPrize show in which contenders were paired w notable works from the collection, a brunch with the artists and ArtPrize DirectorChristian Gaines (4 mos new from the LA independent film scene) and we’re off again. This time via trolley to Kendall College, a stop to see last year’s winner “Elephants,” a monumental graphite on paper allegorical “Peaceable Kingdom” type drawing (installed amidst a plethora of clever merchandising (My 2 cents about that maybe tomw)), to the sleek, expansive LaFontsee Galleries (good regional contemporary, framing and design-y merch and then to meld food and art culture at the Downtown Market (25 varieties of pink salt and almond biscotti ice cream).
We finished our evening at the home of the city’s most eclectic private art collection. What can you say about collectors like this? Old masters hung salon style along side graffiti art above a custom case of Japanese netsuke, a Van Gogh drawing in the atrium a Wolf Kahn in the bedroom and rows upon rows of unknown, but compelling to the owners small, medium large, accomplished and a bit raw, paintings. My favorite kind of collector is what I say. Just a great reminder of living with art you love.
So. Wildly liberating to view art in museums, galleries, hotel lobbies, an auto-body shop, a few brew pubs, a yoga studio, cathedrals, community centers, sidewalks, Starbucks, pizza joints, a sports arena,
city parks, Buffalo Wild Wings, a courthouse, a presidential museum, a bank and a nice cream parlor, huh? And did I mention hundreds of people … you know.
Here’s a smattering of pics in no order. See what you thin and tom’w Ill tell you more about what the artists think of all this and how it all may benefit Dayton.