ArtPrize is a chaotic, jumbled mess of classic and pop, amateur and professional art surrounded by mobs of people and spread out over (mostly) downtown Grand Rapids, Michigan.
It’s creative, kitschy, classy, unorthodox, and I loved every grass-roots moment of it.
For 19 days every year, Grand Rapids turns their downtown into an oversized art show, free to anyone that wants to enter or visit. With over $500K in prizes (and grand prizes of $200K awarded by both public vote and by jury), artists from all over the world come to enter. There are no rules, no jury or committee approvals. Just find someone willing to let you hang/assemble your piece on their space, get an entry number, and start collecting the votes.
Plus it’s not just paintings and sculptures for people to look at. For locals and visitors this year there are puppet shows, concerts, dance performances, not to mention the ever-present street musicians and vendors, plus a live tattooing demonstration. There’s also the opportunity for other artist-run initiatives in the state of Michigan to present their results and increase awareness.
Several things really impressed me about ArtPrize:
- Anyone can participate. It’s an open call for artists and any venue in the area, so they have removed as many barriers as possible.
- It purposely disrupts the rules of the established art world in order to expand the meaning of art and bring it to the masses.
- It allows everyone to vote on who wins the top prizes. Spectators vote to decide the top prize, and a jury awards additional prizes. This keeps the general public involved and the artists actively engaging the audience, yet keeps the whole event from becoming so pop-oriented/kitschy that other artists stay away.
- It’s independently organized by the venues and artists, and fully embraced by the local Art Museum and businesses.
- It benefits the entire community by bringing lots of people spending money at hotels, restaurants and stores. The closest hotel we could find was almost outside the city.
Even better, it’s the perfect model for a credit union to look at when dreaming big about a community event.
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