ArtPrize Kicks Off Sixth Year of Art Competition

Photo+by+Emily+Cole

Photo by Emily Cole

Grand Rapids is about to be bombarded with art once again.

The internationally recognized art competition ArtPrize enters its sixth year beginning on Wednesday, Sept. 24, and running through Oct. 12.

The competition began as a concept in the mind of founder Rick DeVos. The idea of a radically democratic art competition in which ordinary people voted for their favorite pieces ruffled many a feather in the art community. However, its proponents make a case for its appeal based on the open selection and possibilities of the concept.

“The most exciting part about ArtPrize is that you kind of don’t know what you’re going to get,” said Reitsma Mpindi, a sophomore minoring in art.

Last year over 400,000 visitors crowded the city streets, restaurants and hotels to soak up the creative atmosphere at over 150 different venues.

The competition has drawn artists from all 50 states and 47 different countries and has injected $22 million dollars into the Grand Rapids economy according to its annual report.

ArtPrize features art ranging from the kitschy to the provocative, all of which forces passersby to answer for themselves what they believe quality art to be.

“It makes you ask, what’s the limit of art? How big can you go? Does it have to be something you can see? Or is it a moment?” said sophomore Mike Fox. “You can be sitting next to someone looking at the same thing and thinking the complete opposite of you.”

This year, ArtPrize is attempting to create greater interaction between art and participants through its enhanced use of social media. The official ArtPrize app will enable visitors to register to vote, explore the art featured in the competition and vote on favorite art.

A new aspect to the social media outlet is “Lists,” an opportunity for jurors and participants to add and share art into “playlists” or curated collections to be shared with the ArtPrize community online. All entries will be featured online, with the option to explore the vast amount of art from the official ArtPrize app.

Students are intrigued by the new social media opportunities. “I’d definitely use the app,” Reitsma Mpindi said. “So that if there’s something we know we want to check out, then we’ll be able to put it on a list of things to do. And we can map it out where we want to go downtown. It’s really helpful, especially for people who don’t know Grand Rapids well.”

As an event contributing to much traffic and consumption in downtown Grand Rapids, ArtPrize 2014 has installed new environmental initiatives to increase sustainability through the event. This will be done through encouraging visitors to purchase reusable water bottles from the HUB, located at 41 Sheldon, and to refill at designated locations around the city. Food truck vendors will contribute to zero waste policies. Bike valet service will also be available at the HUB to increase bike traffic during busy times.

ArtPrize is, at its core, a community movement, and Mike Fox resonates with the community aspect of the competition. “I really enjoyed walking, being around the community and seeing people’s work and being able to think about it. It’s inspirational, with so many people and so many ideas and creativity.”