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ArtPrize: Wear Your Comfy Shoes

There’s a lot to wrap your arms around when talking about ArtPrize in Grand Rapids, Michigan, so I’m just going to do an FAQ:

Wear Your Comfy Shoes

By my second day at ArtPrize I’d left my Chucks in the hotel room and put on more sensible running shoes. ArtPrize is that big. I love me my Chucks but they just aren't made for all that walking.

The immediate downtown Grand Rapids area it encompasses stretches for close to a mile north to south, and several blocks from east to west. That doesn’t even include sites stretching further out around the city.

ArtPrize Isn’t an Art Fair, It's a Competition

ArtPrize isn’t an art fair where you go to a park with rows and rows of artists selling their work. Nothing wrong with that, I've volunteered time at those, this just isn't that.

Large art piece with woman's face in center surrounded by dozens of circular frames with pictures of eyes in them
"In My Eyes" by Florencia Clement de Grandprey, $10,000 2D Visitor Award Winner **

ArtPrize is an art competition. You won’t find a dollar sign on any of the pieces. Pieces are available on a special website, connected to the ArtPrize site, and you can contact the artists directly to purchase some works from them, you're just not going to be able to walk up and buy them on site at the event.

There’s a lot of cash involved. ArtPrize awards $250,000 in prize money. That’s a whole lotta moola.

If that’s not a big enough number for you, factor in another $150,000+ awarded directly to artists to help in creating larger-than-life art placed in key locations in the downtown area.

One of the great things about ArtPrize is a majority of prize money winners are decided by the public, you if you attend, through voting. Lesser amounts are awarded through a juried competition and an award voted on by the artists themselves.

Also, ArtPrize isn’t just a weekend event. This year started September 15 and lasted through October 2. All of the art is on display throughout that period so no matter when you visit, you have the opportunity to see it all. The art pieces are located in public places, hotels, bars, a convention center and all sorts of retail establishments.

You Name It, You’ll See It

Black and white sculpture that looks like a hat, made entirely of hair.
This incredible sculpture is made entirely of hair by Migena Furxhi. The photo behind, with model wearing the sculpture, is by Damien Carney. **

The art at ArtPrize is literally all over the board, big to small, painting to sculptures, small to humongous, metal to human hair. Yes, I said human hair.

You’ll find some of the artists on hand, ready and excited to talk with visitors about their work. Of course, with an event that stretches more than two weeks not every artist is going to be there the whole time but I did see several along the way.

Some artists were even working on pieces while visitors watched and there all sorts of workshops, artists panels and other happenings going on.

It’s Overwhelming

Not going to lie, getting around and finding things is a bit overwhelming. For whatever reason I got myself turned around numerous times, even though I had both a printed map and the online map on the ArtPrize website.

If it works with your schedule, go during the week. I was there the final Friday and Saturday. The crowds were ok on Friday but Saturday got to be a little crazy in some locations.

I really wish I could have found a listing of some key locations but didn’t see it on the website. There is a list of each piece of art and their respective locations, but some places only have a couple of pieces of art or so, and there are others where you’ll find a whole lot of pieces.

DeVos Place Convention Center is at the top of the list. There are a lot of artists represented there, including a couple who ended up being winners. I didn’t discover that until Saturday when the crowds were big and really wished I’d know about that on Friday when I could have moved around more easily and spent more time really looking at pieces.

A couple other spots with a number of artists, at least that I happened upon, were the Gerald Ford Presidential Museum and the Atrium at Uccello’s which just happened to be right beside my hotel.

On the other hand, the real advantage to going on that last weekend is the winners are announced on Friday. Saturday morning I was able to look the winners list up online and had the opportunity to specifically check them out.

Grand Rapids Has It Going On

There’s a whole lot happening in downtown Grand Rapids. I parked my car when I arrived and walked to everything, also explaining the need for comfy shoes.

There are at least four different museums, countless retail shops and just as many restaurants, bars, breweries and wine spots, and the Van Andel Arena is the site of numerous music and sporting events. (For those of you from the Quad Cities area, the Van Andel looks a lot like Vibrant Arena at the Mark and is just slightly larger.)

I could easily spend a weekend there even when ArtPrize isn't going on.

Let's Look at the Art Already!

Ok, enough of all that. Here's photos with just a sampling of some the art. More details about the pieces are down below.

The Clean Machine - John Leben - The trees are the best solution we can control for ridding the air of toxic CO2 emissions from the burning of fossil fuels.

Embodied Healing Through Body Art - Kristen Zamora - Winner of $10,000 Time-Based Visitor Award. Embodied is a project where the artist connects with people who have overcome different trauma, tragedies, mental health disorders, in order to advocate for change, and to help remove stigmas associated. The model shares their powerful story of overcoming as the artist and model collaborate to create a design representing the model's story and power of overcoming. Elizabeth, the model here, was attending a summer party interrupted by gunfire. She was shot three times in her legs. Two of those bullets remain inside her.

Artists Jill Nienhuis and Alec Zemper demonstrate their work live.

Brand new cars are also the canvas for artist in this street scene.

Eschew - Ian Manseau & Kahsandra Williams - When the viewer looks through one of the lens they are presented with one political view of the world, an analogy for people's experiences selectively filtering out views that do not fit their own. Without the ability to see the other side, we are unable to see the entire mess and unable to begin to resolve out issues.

American Eagle - Kasey Wells - American Eagle is made of farm implement shanks, rotors, barbell weights, window weights, leaf springs, chains, sickle sections, mower bands, fan blades, and more. It is 15 feet tall and weighs 5,320 pounds.

Twigg the Forest Dragon - Jennifer Dunahee - Twigg focuses on the wonder of everyday nature through a unique, magical lens. Trees become a dragon, mushrooms become elves, animals become fairies and the sea becomes a mermaid. Interview with artist.

The Last Supper - Mher Khachatryan - Oil on canvass. Known as The Smoke Artist, Khachatryan’s interest is in the beauty of the smoke and fire, the life and death. His interpretation of Da Vinci’s work was drawn in his signature smoke style, Differentiating itself from Da Vinci’s version, Mher’s interpretation has the Apostles sitting in a mirrored position with Judas in contrast to those around him as he ponders his betrayal with silver in hand.

Guardian Deva - Rawassasas Vasitthakampol

Sad Blimp Twinning - Satellite Collective - The blimp was silent during the day but "talkative" at night with programming projecting on and from the blimp. More info about the project.

Lost - Dane Porter - Lost was created after a feeling we all experience, an emotion we all feel and rarely discuss, that feeling of not knowing one's next move in life. At the corner stands a figure staring into a vast and seemingly endless span of water.

Sanchira - Melissa Machnee - Named for Machnee’s great-grandmother who immigrated from Ukraine, the piece is shaped like an Easter egg, a common image in Ukrainian culture. Cut out of the egg is a coat of arms often seen on the Ukrainian flag, with inlaid red glass representing the blood that has been lost.

King Tut - Bruce Gorsline - This piece was in the main lobby area of my hotel. Gorsline and his traveled to Egypt where he became fascinated with the images of Tut's tomb. His hand-carved replica took three years to complete. Interview with the artist.

360 Seasons of Life (Wall of Roses) - Nima Veiseh - Made of acrylic and polystyrene, life is like the budding of a rose. The 360 hand-sculpted painted roses represent the length of a human lifetime. Each rose symbolizing the length of a season itself.

Paper in Bloom - Amy Hamby - 200 hand-cut paper creations standing 10 feet tall and 7 feet wide. The piece weighs 30 pounds and took three months to complete.


**I allow use of my photos through Creative Commons License. I'm not looking to make money off this thing. I only ask you provide me with credit for the photo by noting my blog address,, or a link back to this page.


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