ArtPrize paints rosy economic picture


Battle Creek artist Richard Schlatter earned ArtPrize’s top honor last year with a portrait of Abraham Lincoln created with more than 24,000 pennies. Courtesy ArtPrize

The largest art festival in Grand Rapids continues to have a great effect on the local economy.

ArtPrize recently announced visitors created an estimated $33 million in economic impact for its ninth annual event last year from Sept. 20-Oct. 8. That is an increase from $28 million in 2016.

More than 522,000 people from across all 50 U.S. states and 47 countries swarmed downtown Grand Rapids for the 19-day international art competition to view over 1,300 pieces of art. Approximately 212,000 visitors traveled from more than 30 miles away and 81,000 visitors traveled from out of state, according to the report.

A variety of age groups visited ArtPrize, according to Kristian Grant, the organization’s donor development manager. Twenty-seven percent of visitors were between 51 and 65 years old, 21 percent were between 18 and 25 and 15 percent were between 26 and 34.

Grant said visitors spent an average of $39.60 per day and stayed an average of 2.7 days in Grand Rapids.

“In 2017, that all equated to $33 million in net, new economic impact in Grand Rapids, that is equal to $1.7 million spending per day over 19 days,” Grant said. “Economic impact has risen steadily over the past five years. We attribute this to a long-term trend of visitors traveling from further away and spending more time in Grand Rapids.”

There were 175 venues, including 40 new venues and three satellite locations. ArtPrize Director of Learning and Engagement Becca Guyette said 10 percent of visitors used public transportation to travel around the city.

As organizers look to ArtPrize 10, sponsors have invested in the event through 2020. ArtPrize announced it has experienced a 7 percent year-over-year increase in corporate fundraising with over 20 high-level funders committed to multiyear sponsorships, representing $3.2 million in booked revenues through 2020.

“In 2017, corporate sponsors represented nearly 60 percent of the ArtPrize budget, and ArtPrize’s financial outlook has never been better,” said Jori Bennett, executive director of ArtPrize.

Madeline Kroll, ArtPrize’s business development manager, said there were more than 100 sponsors and partners, including PNC Bank, Frey Foundation, Lake Michigan Credit Union, Meijer, Downtown Grand Rapids Inc. and one of several new sponsors last year, LIFEWTR, a PepsiCo brand.

Twenty-four percent of the budget was represented by national and local grants, and individual donors and earned revenue from merchandise and registration fees accounted for the remainder of the budget.

“The ArtPrize team has worked to develop long-term partnerships with our highest-level sponsors that deliver measurable results and creative programming year-over-year. This strategy has led to collaborative relationships with numerous international, national and regional brands,” Bennett said. “For eight years, ArtPrize’s business goal has been to become a community-driven, self-sustaining, artist-oriented nonprofit organization, and we are proud to say our long-term financial outlook has never been better or more secure.”

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