It’s unorthodox, highly disruptive, and undeniably intriguing to the art world and the public alike.
Started as an experiment almost a decade ago, ArtPrize is an art competition that takes place every year in Grand Rapids, Michigan. What makes it so unorthodox, disruptive, and intriguing is that it uses three square miles of downtown Grand Rapids as its “gallery”. ArtPrize undoubtedly has helped put the city of Grand Rapids on the radar of many people who may not have previously considered it a travel destination. I’ve long been a fan of Grand Rapids and I look forward to ArtPrize every year as a reason to visit the city once again. What I love most about ArtPrize, though, is that it’s open to the public and completely free to view the art. I’m also amazed by the way some of the artists incorporate both the natural and man-made features of the city into their creations. It’s all very symbiotic.
ArtPrize runs for about 2.5 weeks each year so my family and I try to make it to Grand Rapids at some point during the competition to check out the exceptional art and to enjoy the city, and that’s what we did last weekend. It was cold and rainy, had the biggest crowds I’d ever seen, and we had two little ones under the age of 7, so we didn’t get to see everything. We covered plenty of ground, though – enough for me to have dozens of photos of this year’s entries. Here are my favorites from ArtPrize 2015.
Connectivities by Forest Hills Public Schools. What makes this one a favorite is that it was created by students and faculty from the Forest Hills Public School system. It consists of more than 7,000 yarn wrappings that were whimsically arranged to create this colorful 3D border around the top level of the Grand Rapids Downtown Market.
Seasons by Robin Protz. Another 3D installation, this one is on display at the Amway Grand Plaza Hotel, where my family and I stayed while in Grand Rapids. I loved all the shimmery lights and how all four seasons are represented in this tree’s canopy. It was mesmerizing, actually.
REACH and SPLASH by Andy Sacksteder. Two things I really love about this piece: what it stands for and how it uses an existing Grand Rapids attraction as part of the installation. What we see are two bronze statues, one named REACH and the other named SPLASH. They are meant to symbolize the spontaneity of youth, telling the story of two youngsters who happened upon a rope hanging over water. According to the artist, “‘REACH’ (the girl statue) symbolizes the willingness of youth to reach towards the future, extend themselves, and try new things. ‘SPLASH’ has already grabbed that rope swing, and is exuberantly making his entry (big splash) into the unknown of his future.” And this is all displayed within an existing fountain outside the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum.
Blue Giraffe by Jim Neal. What’s not to love about a giant, blue mosaic-tiled giraffe with beautiful long eyelashes? It’s seriously adorable and appropriately placed outside the Grand Rapids Children’s Museum.
The Curiosity of Privacy by Anna Donahue. I know I’m one of many that have this thing about taking pictures of doors and windows while traveling. There are some gorgeous and intricate doorways throughout the world and they’re beautiful to look at, but for me, it’s always been more about what’s behind those doors that’s intrigued me. Wherever I travel, I make it a point to get into residential areas to get a feel for how the locals live. Most of what I get to see is from the outside so I end up imagining what it’s like inside the residences. I remember as my sister and I strolled the streets of Venice a few years back, I asked her, “Do you think someone would let me in their house if I just knocked on their door and asked?” She looked at me like I was insane but I’m always curious about how others go about life within their daily environment. It’s definitely a thing, and Anna Donahue seems to feel the same way.
Troll Bridge by Justin La Doux. The famous Billy Goat Gruff story is retold in 3D form with recycled materials and a Michigan spin. Troll Bridge is meant to symbolize the two peninsulas of Michigan, which are separated by the Mackinac Bridge, and implies that those who live in the lower peninsula are trolls. The cast of characters are endearing; the detail, amazing. I got a real kick out of this one!
Unbridled by Bill Secunda. Freedom. It’s what we all long for. The female rider in this steel sculpture embodies it.
These are just a handful of the more than 1,500 works of art that were part of ArtPrize 2015. It’s such an inspiring and thought-provoking event. Hopefully this has put Grand Rapids on your radar and you’re inspired now to check out a future ArtPrize!