ArtPrize has taken over our town and wonderfully so. Grand Rapids is packed with young and old, families, old folks using walkers, groups and singles. The diversity is palpable.
For example on Friday I visited the tony Grand Rapids Art Museum, the massive white Modernist box filled with impressive stuff—most of it big. There I saw mixed with the expected artsy and creative folks, people who looked like they mostly hung out in sports bars or bowling alleys. Nothing judgmental about that…… just unexpected and marvelous.
Many of the artists were there ready and eager to talk about their work.
For example, Jimmy Descant, the fellow pictured above, combines photos of JFK in Grand Rapids, shot 50 years ago by Jimmy’s late father, with his creation of rocket ships from found materials. I spent 15 minutes talking to him and still didn’t really get the connection, but enjoyed the whole experience.
ArtPrize can be enjoyed on a lot of levels. Artistic vision and pure pleasure of something beautiful. Disturbing images and controversy. The skill and talent involved. The message the artist is trying to communicate. Connecting with people you know and meeting new friends.
The creativity is amazing. For example, at the Women’s City Club this piece is created out of layers of duct tape. It looked like a photograph to me at first.
Who can’t help but enjoy the twenty two painted pianos on the streets, the creation of Luke Jerram. “Play Me, I’m Yours” is a project that has reached almost three million people in cities stretching from London to Sydney. How terrific that we can enjoy them here.
One of my favorites is the Evaporative Building at UICA by Alex Schweder La. Mystical images are projected in a mist created in the loading dock of the building. You have to experience this one.
And how could someone come up with the idea of submitting art work created in in the back of a truck by pencils strung from ropes? Dave Ford from El Paso, Texas did. The huge piece on the wall at U.I.C.A. was created on his drive from Texas to Grand Rapids.
Yes, ArtPrize is promotional. Artists actually stopped me on the streets, handing me cards, asking me to vote for them. The purists sneer at this, but I think the interaction is great.
I am interested in the discussion about Artprize and the ways that people look at it. For example, Grand Rapids artist Rick Beerhorst was quoted in an Detroit Free Press article saying, “I believe that Art Prize is rewriting the DNA of the city. We’ve always been a conservative, traditional place, but the city is just giving itself over to artists for 2 ½ weeks. It’s like the Nile overflowing every year and leaving sediment behind. It might take 10-15 years, but this can be the kind of place where creative people are not just tolerated but celebrated.”
My friend, Peggy, an artist and retired art educator said, “It’s like Grand Rapids is getting tattooed.”
At a party for Tom Clinton, a Grand Rapids artist, I discussed the opportunities for photographers with Diane Carroll Burdick, a professional Grand Rapids photographer. We have worked together over the years at the Grand Rapids Press, becoming friends.
I asked her about her approach to photographing ArtPrize. One approach is to simply and accurately document the art, capturing it for viewers. The other is to take the piece and make your own art out of it. Both are great fun for her and those of us who like to get behind the lens of a camera.
Since she teaches photography at Kendall College of Art and Design we talked about how stimulating it would be to host a workshop for photographers where the goal would be to create art from ArtPrize entries. I am imaging photographers and wannabes like me out stalking the streets, capturing images, creating art with their lenses and digital software, and then having wonderful conversations about the results.
Sign me up. I’m there.