By Kathleen Gest, Local columnist
---- — ArtPrize is an international art exhibition and social experiment. Artists from all corners of the world will show their work in 162 venues within three square miles of downtown Grand Rapids. The competition is a combination of public votes and juried prizes, where artists are competing for a total of $560,000.
ArtPrize 2012 will welcome 1,517 confirmed art entries from 56 countries and 45 states, when the fourth annual exhibition opens on Sept. 19. The Travel Alliance is offering a one-day tour on Tuesday, Oct. 2, to participate in the event.
This grand civic project began with the premise that art is important, but was created to be a very different kind of art competition. It changed the traditional art contest in two ways. First, there was the open call to artists, venues and voters. Any artist in the world could compete; anyone with property in downtown Grand Rapids could turn their space into a venue; and any visitor could vote for their favorite art entry.
Second, the connections process between the artist and venue has been compared to a dating website — venues are approaching artists, while artists are simultaneously approaching venues. This unique courting process provides ArtPrize with many surprises — anything is possible. Nonetheless, the event focuses on the entries of the artists.
My daughter Kelly Gest, a past program manager for the Humanities Council of Greater Grand Rapids, was involved in ARTcation for the first ArtPrize. She enthusiastically recommends participating. "ArtPrize brings people together. You have amazing conversations about art with total strangers and it is really engaging, because no matter where you go in the city, people are roaming around looking at art, talking about art."
"It is a uniquely participative event where you not only get to vote for your favorite art, but you often get to interact with it," she said. "Some of the ArtPrize entries allow you to touch them, some of them are performance art, some of the entries ask for your participation directly, as part of the entry. It really gives you a broad cross-section of the art world. There is everything from art by the established professional to art from a novice, who is just entering the art world for the first time. There's any kind of medium you can imagine, and probably some you wouldn't have imagined. There is going to be an art entry for you to discover that you like and art for you to react against. It is really exciting to be a part of ArtPrize. You can feel the energy that it generates in the city."
Voting at ArtPrize is free and open to anyone 16 years of age or older. Anyone can pre-register at artprize.org, but to keep everything fair, all voters must activate their account in-person with a valid government-issued ID.
Once activated, you vote via a computer or your mobile device.
"ArtPrize is just fantastic," said Betsy MacGirr, Travel Alliance escort. "It has become a major event in Grand Rapids."
The tour includes a luncheon at the Women's City Club, located in the prior Martin J. Sweet's two-story Italianate Villa from the early 1860s. It has been the home of the Women's City Club since 1927. Every year they have interesting ArtPrize entries.
"At ArtPrize, there is art for everybody — people really develop the skill to talk about art, because they are talking about it with people they don't know," Kelly Gest said. "You have to choose your words and you really have to think — why do I like this? It gives you a deeper understanding of what it is about art that you love and appreciate."
Call the Senior Center Network at 922-4911 or email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information on the October ArtPrize tour.