Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Predicted harsh winter may be a revenue buster for Grand Rapids

Monday, September 29, 2014

ArtPrize from the view of middle schoolers

What gorgeous weather Grand Rapids has had this year for ArtPrize. September is quite often our most enjoyable month, but all of this sunshine and warmth must be great for downtown venues and vendors - and tourists!

While the adults in our family have been to ArtPrize once or not at all, our fifth grader has been three times: once with his school class, once with friends, and once with his mother. He tells me that he doesn't need to see this much art, but it is still fun to view this huge event through his eyes.

One of the interesting things I realized when I was driving downtown with him was that even though this is only the sixth time ArtPrize has been held, he doesn't remember Grand Rapids before this event. Nor does he remember a time when people had to take cameras or just view large spectacles like this and try to remember them. In his mind there have always been iPods and smartphones and people have always been whipping them out whenever anything moved or even twitched.

When he came home after his class trip, I asked him what he liked best, and he had no comment. Browsing the photos taken on my camera, I noted that half of them were pictures taken of his friends in goofy poses. There was some art - a stained glass church window, a large painting with a cow, but any greater meaning or vision the art on display held seems to have largely passed him by.

I encouraged his friend and him to tell me what they saw. Here is conversation the had:

Friend: "Some of the exhibits were completely inappropriate."
My son: "There were a bunch of naked people."
Friend: "Well, naked women. I think the guys had underwear on."
My son: "No, they didn't."
Friend: "Yeah, they did.
My son: "They didn't have underwear on."
Friend: "And one of them - her boobs were all saggy. It was totally disgusting."
Son: "It was gross."
Friend: "I don't know what those artists were thinking!"

According to both of them, the men in bunny suits in the river piece was "Messed up!" When I told them it was a self-portrait, they just looked at me funny.

My son really wanted to take a selfie with the penguin statue next to the horse made out of old mechanical parts, though. And both boys were impressed by Dominic Pangborn's 3-D Michigan in Motion. We looked at that one for awhile from all of the different angles.

They collected the cards from the artists too and tried to decide which cards were more better and more tradable: "This one has +5 attack damage." "This is a get out of jail free card!" And they went back to the #U piece to get the temporary #U tattoo.

It would appear, then, that whether you like or appreciate art, people watching, walking around downtown Grand Rapids in September, or none of these, ArtPrize still may have something enjoyable to offer.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Grand Rapids gears up for Artprize 2014

Downtown things are starting to gear up - for ArtPrize, that is. ArtPrize is Grand Rapids’s annual art competition; it draws artists from across the globe to compete for the votes of everyday viewers and participants. A total of $560,000 in prize money will be given out to the winners, and half of that is determined by popular vote. ArtPrize will run this year from September 24 until October 12.

Local restaurants and hotels are preparing for far more business than usual. ArtPrize 2013 generated $22.2 million in new economic activity, and the city and its entrepreneurs would love a repeat or increase in revenues for this sixth Artprize festival. It’s the nation’s largest public art competition, and an estimated 300,000 people will be on hand to participate in choosing 2014’s most popular art. The income and jobs created by this event are impressive objectively, but for workers in Michigan, long plagued with unemployment woes, they’re even more appreciated. Rick DeVos deserves a lot of credit for the long term value this open air art festival imparts to the city. Much of the art on display is also for sale, which helps local artists get noticed and connected with their audience.

This week Artprize announced the locations and services available at its hospitality spaces. The one open to the general public will be located at 41 Sheldon Blvd. Here people will be able to register to vote in Artprize, ask for general assistance, purchase ArtPrize merchandise, and view previous winning entries. The other location will be for the media, the artists, and other credentialed visitors.

ArtPrize will also be releasing apps for Apple and Android on September 22. These will allow ArtPrize participants to share their opinions and experiences and better navigate the busy downtown display areas.

Already some of this year’s 1,536 entrants have begun the process of packing and shipping their work to the city, installing, or creating their art in situ as Kevin Sudeith is with his carvings of native Grand River fishes on field stone near the public museum. Grand Rapids, already peppered with murals and former art installations, will soon be as decorated as a Christmas tree again, and people from all over the city, the state, the United States, and the world will arrive to behold it.

This is a win-win for all comers: artists, restaurateurs, businessmen, festival goers, schoolchildren, and city officials. The American Bus Association just named ArtPrize a Top 100 Best Event for 2015, and it has made numerous other lists over the past few years. Will you be there this year?