Art Outdoor Project promotes local artists

With a claim to fame such as ArtPrize, it’s no surprise that the art scene in Grand Rapids is one that continues to thrive even outside the annual event. The contributions of Grand Rapids’ dedication to art can be seen everywhere; the Grand Rapids Art Museum, the Urban Institute for Contemporary Arts and the Frederick Meijer Gardens and Sculpture Park are only a few venues that showcase the talent of Grand Rapids creators. Recently, a new addition has been made towards this art scene with the Art Outdoor Project, an event introduced in June 2015.

In its first year, Art Outdoor Project encouraged local artists to create and submit artwork that promoted Grand Rapids as a travel destination, and at the end of the competition, a selection committee made up of art enthusiasts and art gallery owners chose five of the 27 submissions, which were judged on originality, variety, use of contrasting colors and simplicity. After artists were selected, the art was displayed on billboards throughout the state during the summer, and each artist received $500 and was introduced at a reception in the Richard App Gallery as well. This concept was introduced through Experience Grand Rapids, the city’s official destination marketing organization, alongside last year’s “Cool City. Hot Art” campaign that promoted Grand Rapids’ art scene.

Janet Korn, senior vice president of Experience Grand Rapids, noted that the billboards created by these artists will help visitors and citizens see Grand Rapids as an art hotspot, and the Art Outdoor Project itself emphasizes that Grand Rapids is an area that is culturally enriched with a lot to offer for art enthusiasts.

This year, the project has returned bigger and better. For the 2016 competition, Grand Rapids is inviting local artists to submit artwork, but this time in a partnership with the Urban Institute for Contemporary Arts. The selected art will once again be displayed on billboards throughout the state of Michigan from August to September, with each of the five chosen pieces randomly assigned to a billboard location during those months.

Last year, the winners were Maggie Bandstra with a piece titled “Rosa’s Park,” Emily Chilvers, Alex Gilford with “Modern Window Cleaners,” Alynn Guerra and Nick Nortier with “House Faces.” Their pieces were distributed in Livingston, Oakland and Washtenaw counties, in Lansing and along the lakeshore on I-96.

Korn mentioned that these pieces were selected because the judges decided they were a diverse group that represented different viewpoints of the city, and they were unique in the way they represented Grand Rapids, as the pieces represented what Grand Rapids meant to the artists.  

Artwork submissions can be found through Experience Grand Rapids’ website for this year’s Art Outdoor Project and will be accepted until April 13. The selected artists will be notified by May 15.