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.