Last year’s winner was “Sleeping Bear Dune Lakeshore” by Ann Loveless. Courtesy Experience Grand Rapids
Massive throngs of people will descend on Grand Rapids this week when the sixth annual ArtPrize begins its 19-day stay in downtown as artists compete for $560,000 in prizes.
The crowds are a welcome result of the world’s largest art competition, but bringing people to Grand Rapids isn’t ArtPrize’s No. 1 priority, said Todd Herring, ArtPrize director of marketing and communications.
“Part of the magic is, we’re not focused on that,” Herring said. “We’re focused on facilitating the competition to the highest level.”
With a better competition, the level of discussion on contemporary art will rise, not just in the city, but around the world. Herring said although the organization isn’t focused on bringing thousands of visitors to the city, it’s still proud of the numbers — an average of 19,000 daily visitors.
This year, ArtPrize wants to continue to deepen spectators’ connections to the 1,537 entries of artwork with another adjustment to the voting structure. Now, the juried vote and the public vote will coincide in the end.
“We want the audience to engage in the decision process,” Herring said. “This way, the public can compare and contrast the entries and see the overlaps.”
In ArtPrize’s first year in 2009, a $250,000 grand prize and nine descending monetary awards amounting to $220,000 were given out based solely on the public vote. In 2010, several $7,000 juried awards were given out in addition to the public voting structure. 2012 saw the juried awards grow larger in monetary terms, including a $100,000 grand prize.
This year the awards will follow a parallel path, with both the public and juried grand prize worth $200,000. There are then four $20,000 awards in four categories for both public votes and juried awards: two-dimensional, three-dimensional, time-based and installation. Installation differs from three-dimensional because it is site specific, whereas a sculpture could be placed anywhere.
Voting for the public begins at noon Sept. 24 and continues to Oct. 4 at 11:59 p.m.
On Oct. 5 at Rosa Parks Circle, the top five entries in each category will be announced and the public can begin voting on their favorites among the top 20 entries.
Voters must register to vote in person at a voting site, or by using the app, which can verify location via GPS. There are 10 voting sites: the ArtPrize HUB, UICA, Women’s City Club, Monroe Community Church, Kendall College of Art and Design, Grand Rapids Art Museum, Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum, Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park, Cathedral Square and Ascentcare. The addresses of voting sites can be found on the ArtPrize website (artprize.org) under the “Plan Your Visit” section.
The juried finalists will be announced Sept. 29, and all the winners will be announced at 8 p.m. Oct. 10 at the ArtPrize Awards event. This year, the ceremony will take place at Grand Rapids Civic Theatre, with a big-screen party outdoors at Rosa Parks Circle and a live broadcast on WOOD TV8.
Exhibition Centers and Showcase Venues are open noon to 8 p.m. Monday through Saturday and noon to 6 p.m. Sundays. The rest of the venues are open 5 to 8 p.m. Monday through Thursday, noon to 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday and noon to 6 p.m. on Sunday.
There’s also a variety of independent awards, such as St. Cecilia Music Center’s $10,000 prize, the new Paul Collins Diversity in Art Award, several church awards and a Consumers Energy program called Art Start for the Grand Rapids Public School system.
Also new this year is an expanded Critical Discourse series. Last year, it was one event. Now, it’s a whole series of programs including a two-part event that will see art critics discuss all 40 finalists. All of the programs will be televised on WOOD TV8.
This year’s 1,537 entries will be displayed at 174 venues in a three-mile radius of downtown Grand Rapids. The footprint of ArtPrize has stayed the same since 2009, with the downtown area exhibiting all of the art except for pieces at Frederik Meijer Gardens and Sculpture Park.
Herring said despite a desire from venues outside the boundaries to take part, the footprint has stayed the same as the organization continues to focus on the award structure to facilitate a better competition.
“We haven’t been active on boundaries, but anything’s possible in the future,” he said.
A growing boundary might be needed in the future as exhibitions, programs, partnerships and attendance all increase every year.
Last year, more than 225,000 visitors cast more than 446,000 votes. The event had a $22.1 million economic impact on Grand Rapids and created more than 250 million media impressions, including features in the Los Angeles Times, Wall Street Journal and Huffington Post.
ArtPrize is expecting even more visitors this year as awareness of the city, helped in no small part by ArtPrize, landed Grand Rapids, along with Lake Michigan’s Gold Coast, among Lonely Planet’s 2014 Top 10 U.S. Destinations.
Those out-of-town visitors should have an easier time navigating the city, as well.
An improved ArtPrize mobile phone app was scheduled for release today. The app contains a new feature that allows users to create lists that can range from choosing favorite artworks that contain the color yellow to creating lists for friends to see pieces related to vintage cars, Herring said. Walking directions between entries on various lists will be generated by the app.
ArtPrize’s daily blog also will be incorporated into the app, which allows users to see events taking place that day and a recap of the previous day.
Grand Rapids’ newest mass transit addition, the Silver Line bus rapid transit, also will play a role in helping people get around, Herring said. A partnership with The Rapid means $5 will purchase two unlimited-ride wristbands for any bus route.
The Silver Line might encourage more people to visit even on rainy days, but Herring said there’s a subculture of ArtPrize goers who like to take advantage of supposedly smaller crowds during foul weather. The weather, however, has not been a real problem in the past.
“Fall is a lovely time to be here,” Herring said. “There’s generally been one bad windstorm and some rain, but for the most part, the days are mid-60s and we see a lot of sun.”
Other new transportation options include a bike valet service at the ArtPrize HUB at 41 Sheldon Blvd. and at the Ledyard Building, 125 Ottawa Ave. NW. Bike and pedicab rentals also are available through Central District Cyclery and Green Machine Pedicabs, respectively.
The ArtPrize HUB offers a place to sign up for an account and register to vote, a free map of venues, and an opportunity to purchase an event guide, Rapid wristband, shop at the ArtPrize Store and free WiFi.
Another new partnership this year is with Ascentcare, which has set up a lounge for people with disabilities at 139 S. Division Ave. It comes complete with electric wheelchair chargers and other amenities that have been forgotten in the past. The partnership also presents AccessArt Pathway, a curated tour through ArtPrize for those with accessibility needs that begins and ends at the lounge.
“These are mobility considerations for people who otherwise aren’t given a welcome mat and have a lot more to think about than an average person,” Herring said.
A lot goes into the organization of the event every year, but the entire ArtPrize organization is proudest of one of its major outcomes, Herring said.
“Every year, we see a crowd much more capable of discussing contemporary art at a higher level,” Herring said.