Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Art Prize 2012 - The Highlights

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By Doctor

The fourth annual Art Prize competition is in the books. The big winner of the world's largest art competition, and $200,000, is Adonna Khare's carbon pencil on paper drawing "Elephants." It is a piece of immense scale (8' tall and almost 40' long), incredible technical and artistic ability, that connects with the viewer thoughts of fun, joy, sadness, and all with a hint of aloofness that made it a worthy winner of the 2012 Art Prize competition. (More Khare work here).
2012 Art Prize top winner, "Elephants", by Adonna Khare

Yes, that was the big winner and a great place to start in my 2012 Art Prize review. This post focuses on the cool aspects of Art Prize and some of my favorite entries. I will follow up with some critiques of Art Prize as well as a final post with a suggestion to improve the evolving competition. Stay tuned. Now, the good.

First, if you're not familiar with Art Prize, let me catch you up to speed (Wiki has more). The idea of social entrepreneur and Amway heir, Rick DeVos, announced in 2009, Art Prize would be the world's largest open art competition with total prize money up to $450,000 (this year $560,000 in total prizes were awarded). Any artist can register, all they need is an original work, partner with a local venue, and pay $50 to register. Even crazier, the public would vote for the winners and who would take home the prize money. 

It is a brilliant idea. This year there were over 1500 entries in 161 venues throughout downtown Grand Rapids. Over 400,000 people visited the city and more than 47,000 votes were cast. Basically, for three weeks one can explore hundreds works of art in all mediums throughout downtown Grand Rapids. It’s an exploration of art, the city, and one’s self. Yes, that last part sounds corny, but it is true. As you explore, experience, and interpret the art and how it affects you, you are indeed undertaking an exploration of yourself. That is the power of art. It seeks to help us explore and examine ourselves and our condition. 

Tangerine and Jealousy - Loved this piece.
It also sparks dialogue which is one of the main goals of founder, DeVos, and a key foundation of much of his other projects. During Art Prize, people across West Michigan rarely have a conversation without discussing the art, venues they've visited, venues and entries they loved or need to see. It even seemed to trump the discussion surrounding the election - a welcome reprieve in this heated election year.

Now, unfortunately, I wasn't able to see as much of Art Prize as I would have liked to or as much as I saw in previous years - it's just tough to get around when you're recovering from Achilles surgery. So what did I manage to enjoy from this year's Art Prize competition these past few weeks in downtown Grand Rapids?
The Doctor w/ "Mr. Weekend" a 15' self-aware sock puppet
  • The Art - Did I mention you can walk around downtown Grand Rapids and explore hundreds of pieces of artwork in all kinds of mediums? Everything from paintings to sculptures to music to photographs to puppet shows. Yes, I took in a live puppet show during Art Prize of a live reading of an illustrated children's book. So much cool stuff it's tough to cover it all here, but there are some links. (Complete List of Winners; MLive coverage indexmy photos)
  • The Artists - Not all the artists do this, but many artists are there to discuss their entry with visitors. Now some may say that artists shouldn't need to explain their work, but I love being able to connect with the artist, even if it is just to say "hi", "good job", and "thank you". It's even better when they are there and will discuss the artist statement, their motivation/inspiration, and the process of making the art. Being able to chat with Adonna Khare and listen to Chris LaPorte describe all the intricacies of "City Band" are for me, one of the remarkable aspects of Art Prize that you often don't experience in the viewing of art.
  • The People - I actually like crowds. Generally there's something cool or interesting going on when there's a crowd (a crowd is different from a mob). Art Prize brings huge crowds to downtown Grand Rapids. People of all ages make an effort to come downtown and see Art Prize. The city comes alive. Hotels and restaurants are full. Last year's Art Prize competition brought $15 million to the local economy according to the Anderson Economic Group.
  • Chris LaPorte discusses "City Band"
  • Engagement - Art Prize highlights and brings out the best of Grand Rapids. It is an event that showcases city's strong philanthropic spirit from the numerous sponsors and volunteers who contribute to make Art Prize a success.
  • Hospitality - Along with the city's philanthropic spirit, Grand Rapids' and West Michigan's hospitality is on full display throughout Art Prize. Downtown businesses, restaurants, hotels, museums, you name it open their doors to artists to exhibit their work and more importantly to the thousands of people who wander in and out of their establishments, sometimes for a brief moment or to just use the bathroom or to linger about viewing the art. It's not business as usual in downtown Grand Rapids during Art Prize, but people carry themselves extremely well. Even more amazing, are the West Michigan families who open their homes to Art Prize artists, welcoming and connecting them to the community and often being their main source of support. 
And a shout out to some of my favorite entries and venues:

Plexus no 18 
[Fashion Has Heart] - The Corporal Hoffman Series. The [Fashion Has Heart] organization utilizes the medium of fashion, design, and art to support and benefit wounded heroes.They curated a powerful exhibit featuring the design work of injured veterans and their individual stories. Learn more here. And you can buy the awesome t-shirts and designs here. I was a little disappointed it did not win the "Outstanding Venue" juried award.

The Looking Box - I'll admit I'm biased since the artists are family friends who stayed with my parents during Art Prize last year and this year, but it is still an awesome concept. Artists Royce Deans (Traverse City, MI) and Tali Farchi (Netherlands) paint live to music, the music is the inspiration for the painting (their interpretation). During Art Prize they scheduled local musicians to come play live in their Art Prize venue "studio" at Purple East downtown. I attended a few of the performances including two by other Art Prize artists with music entries including Karina Wilson performing "Sad Portrait"  with Fauxgrass (watch the performance/painting hereand Rick Robinson leading a quartet playing his "Highland Park MI City of Trees" entry - both beautiful songs inspiring beautiful paintings. 

Wow. So much to cover. That's also what's cool about Art Prize, you can't hope to see everything or cover it all in one blog post. That's why I'll be revisiting Art Prize in at least two more posts discussing critiques and a proposed improvement to the competition. As always comments are always welcome and encouraged.