GVSU Charter Schools Office brings students to ArtPrize


For the second year in a row, thousands of Michigan students will experience ArtPrize, courtesy of the Grand Valley State University Charter Schools Office.

The Art Education Days event, titled “Artcation” last year, brings 2,000 K-12 students from about 20 schools to the GVSU Grand Rapids campus, said Ellen Sprouls, curator of education at GVSU. Student groups are scheduled to come for six days to learn about art and be exposed to the city’s arts and entertainment culture.

To make the event possible, ArtPrize gave a grant of $5,000 and the GVSU Provost Office issued one for $1,500, Sprouls said. That money paid for ice-sculpting experts Randy Finch and Derek Maxfield, owners of Ice Guru, to perform a demonstration for students from 9-11 a.m. Thursday. Ice Guru has been featured in a Food Network show and in Ripley’s Believe it Or Not.

Project coordinator Amirah Vosburgh said the Grand Valley Charter Schools Office is “looking at spending about $40,000 for this program this year.” It pays to provide students with T-shirts, lunches, the permits to provide lunches in Ah-Nab-Awen Park and bus reimbursements. Each bus receives $1,000 maximum, but many local buses do not need to spend that much for the drive, she said.

Essentially, the $40,000 provides for students’ travel and care, and the $6,500 provides their instruction and entertainment, Sprouls said.

The event generated a tremendous response last year, and Vosburgh said she would not be surprised if it grew every year.

“It’s a pretty popular program,” Vosburgh said. “Registration opened last spring and we were booked in two weeks — and there’s still a waiting list.”

Education has been an emphasis for ArtPrze since the beginning, said Angela DeLuca Placencia, education consultant for ArtPrize. Its overall education program, Art Prize Education Days, has doubled in size every year.

“The first year we had 25 schools and about 2,500 students … the second year 50 schools and at least 5,000 students,” she said. “This year I have registered around 100 schools, if not more.”

DeLuca Placencia said supporting West Michigan art and events like ArtPrize not only builds the local art community but also educates students and helps retain those interested in a creative field.

“We need to engage the younger people in all this wonderful art that’s going on here,” she said. “The more we expose the students, the more they get involved, and then they bring their parents and it just makes ArtPrize so much richer.”

Sprouls said the GVSU event is important in retaining West Michigan talent by offering parents a reason to put their kids in local schools. It also highlights the city of Grand Rapids to students.

“It’s important to reach as many kids as possible, to get as many kids into Grand Rapids as possible,” she said. “It’s amazing how some kids in Walker have never even been to Grand Rapids.”

Carrie Fickle, an art teacher at Vanguard Charter Academy, said the event has been fantastic for her students, many of whom had never heard of ArtPrize.

“I just think this is a great opportunity for all kids from different economic backgrounds,” she said. “They are super excited, and a lot of times, these kids never get down here, so I think it’s really cool for them.”

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