ArtPrize Grand Rapids: A fine day of art

"The Grand Dance" by David Lubbers
"The Grand Dance" by David Lubbers

Spent a wonderful afternoon in downtown Grand Rapids for the first ArtPrize festival. Our group included my wife Doreen and my son Andy, Doreen’s sister Stephanie and her husband and kids, and my mom and stepfather. We started near the Gerald Ford Presidential Museum along the Grand River and walked a loop through downtown.

The ArtPrize event featured hundreds of artists from Michigan and beyond, all competing for some impressive cash awards sponsored by the DeVos Foundation, including a first place award of $250,000. Voting for the top 10 ended last week, so the only votes this weekend were for the final placement of the top 10 finishers. I enjoyed many of the works, though some failed to communicate to me and my admittedly literal mind. Among my favorites were “The Grand Dance” by David Lubbers (shown above), “winddancer” by Michael Westra (I couldn’t get a decent shot, so here’s a link to the ArtPrize site), and AAG’s “Nessie Project” (shown below).

"The Nessie Project" by AAG llc
"The Nessie Project" by AAG llc

Note that most of the Top 10 finishers were located in the river or along the riverbanks, in prime locations, which certainly helped those artists with the voting. With almost $450,000 in prize money available, it would have been nice to see the awards spread out a bit, though I’m sure Rick DeVos doesn’t need my help deciding how to spend his family’s money, and I’m sure the size of the prizes was a big factor in the overall media coverage of the event.

Overall, though, the event was impressive, especially for a first time, citywide cultural event. There were lots of people walking around Grand Rapids on a cloudy, damp afternoon, all enjoying art. That’s got to be positive, and I commend the organizers, artists, and the DeVos family for their support of ArtPrize.

To end the day, we visited Steph’s ArtPrize entry, titled “Haven” and located in the courtyard of Newberry Place, a “cohousing community” in northeast Grand Rapids. As I walked into the spiral defined by fabric braids created by Steph’s (and her collaborator Liz DeBraber’s) friends and family and other natural and textile “walls,” I felt a sense of calm. Visitors had written thoughts on strips of fabric and tied them to the project’s walls. A small garden, part of the courtyard, was in the center. Haven, indeed. I took this photo of Doreen and Steph, talking quietly inside “Haven:”

Doreen Kephart & Steph Everitt-Kirkbride inside "Haven"
Doreen Kephart & Steph Everitt-Kirkbride inside "Haven"

ArtPrize in Grand Rapids

Headed out in the morning, first to Grand Ledge, Michigan, then Grand Rapids. Should be a grand day.

My mom’s cousin John Weigel is celebrating his 70th birthday with a family gathering at his house in Grand Ledge, then we’re off to G.R. to visit with my sister-in-law Steph Everitt-Kirkbride and her family. Steph is a visual artist, specializing in textiles, and she is part of Grand Rapids’ big, successful ArtPrize event. She and her collaborator Liz DeBraber created an installation called “Haven” for the citywide art celebration (and competition). Here’s an article from the Grand Rapids Press about ArtPrize and Steph’s work. I’m looking forward to seeing it in person.

It’s amazing to think that over 300,000 votes were registered for the various artworks created and displayed as part of ArtPrize. Just when I suspect that we’re preoccupied with anything but art (and that would be somewhat justified considering Michigan’s economy), ArtPrize comes along and shows that even in hard times, people can be drawn to create and appreciate.