ArtPrize All Year


ArtPrize is all year friends...

Each fall, we have a front row seat to the most widely attended public art event on the planet. Grand Rapids transforms into a living, breathing gallery space as artists from around the world showcase their work.  I remember sitting in a coffeeshop in Chicago and overhearing some people chat about going up to Grand Rapids that weekend for ArtPrize. In that moment, I had a realization of the dynamic impact this organization has way beyond this city and the few weeks of the actual's all year.

To me, one of the most distinguishable markers each year is seeing the designed artwork that is on all banners, kiosks, and merchandise (ohhhhhh the merchandise=heart eyes). For the design work, ArtPrize has worked with a team from Conduit since 2015. For merchandise, ArtPrize has an in-house design team that partners with Conduit to take the overall design and translate it to all of the products for that year. There's always the most fun items proudly showcasing anything from GR landmarks to that year's artwork.

Speaking of, ArtPrize is doing a holiday pop-up at HUB tonight from 6-8 pm. Live music, food trucks, and some great deals to help you cross some items off your list. I love that these items are available all year...what's more fun than a little ArtPrize holiday cheer in your life? 

I had the opportunity to connect with Jaenell Woods, Communications Manager for ArtPrize. She was intelligent, kind, and so welcoming. It was a reminder of the fact that this event doesn't just show up one day for thousands of people to enjoy. There is a team of dedicated individuals who are planning this all year to make sure every detail is covered well (they are already working on ArtPrize 10). I asked her some questions to gain perspective on the organization as a whole...

Would you please speak a bit to the mission and heart of ArtPrize?
ArtPrize is an international art competition and festival open to all and determined equally by public vote and expert jury. We encourage critical discourse, celebrate artists, transform urban space and promote cultural understanding. Any artist working in any medium from anywhere in the world can participate and show their work throughout Grand Rapids, in museums, bars, public parks, restaurants, theaters, hotels, bridges, laundromats, auto body shops, vacant storefronts and office spaces.

What is something that a lot of people don’t know about ArtPrize?
ArtPrize is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization and nearly 15% of our financial support comes from individuals, whether they become an ArtClub member or ArtFan, buy a t-shirt at one of our retail locations, register to participate in the event, and more. Simply put, ArtPrize wouldn’t be possible without the support of the people in our community.


ArtPrize is an outlet for so many unique artists. What are some of the goals when it comes to connecting with this amazing group?
Artists from around the world and the work they create are what make ArtPrize exciting, thrilling, and fresh every year. In 2017, over 1,500 artists from 47 countries and 41 US states showed their work at 170 venues across Grand Rapids. It is their vision and courage to take risks and embrace the spirit of ArtPrize that makes the event a success each year, and we strive to celebrate them for it and seek ways to support their efforts year-round. Programs like Break it Down Make it Better and ArtPrize Artist Week offer professional development opportunities. Grants awarded ahead of the event break down barriers to bringing ambitious work to Grand Rapids. Volunteer hosts provide hospitality to visiting artists. And so much more.


The impact that this organization/event has in this community in undeniable. What are some of your favorite stories that highlight this reach?
Ran Ortner, winner of the Public Vote Grand Prize for his work Open Water no. 24 at the inaugural ArtPrize in 2009, couldn’t pay his phone bill before entering the event. He borrowed the money from a friend. Winning ArtPrize, and the $250,000 cash prize, helped to propel his career forward. He now has a beautiful studio in Brooklyn, New York and has had work commissioned for Le Bernardin, the United Nation’s World Water Day, and more.

Jeffrey Augustine Songco is a five-time ArtPrize participant, who first entered the competition from San Francisco. His work caught the eye of Michele Bosak, Curator at The Fed Galleries @ KCAD, who invited him to return in 2012. In 2015, he returned yet again – this time with a piece on Calder Plaza made of 30,000 strands of beads. On the first Saturday of the event, every single strand was removed by event goers. The incident was picked up by the local news and visitors who heard the story began bringing beads back. He returned in 2016 to show at UICA, and realized he just couldn’t quit Grand Rapids. He decided to move his practice and his life across the country, relocating to this mid-sized Midwestern city to dive into our local art scene.


How has ArtPrize grown since its inception?
ArtPrize was created as an experiment, and since its inception it has been constantly evolving. In fact, the very notion that we change year-over-year is baked into the organization’s guiding principles. Each year, new developments arise out of feedback we get from visitors, artists, venues, members, sponsors and other stakeholders. 2010 saw the introduction of juried awards, which increased in size until they mirrored the public vote awards in 2014. We have steadily increased the number of grants awarded in advance of the event, totaling nearly $300,000 in 2017 and helping to reduce barriers to participation for artists, venues and educators. As the number of visitors grows year-over-year (from 200,000 in 2009 to over 500,000 in 2017), the economic impact continues to rise.


Where would the organization like to be in the next few years?
Successfully and sustainably fulfilling our mission!


This past year was ArtPrize Nine. Anything unique or special coming down the pipeline for the 10th anniversary?
Oh yes. We’re very excited. But mum’s the word for right now :) 

I'm all in for a good t-shirt. Thankfully, so are some of my favorite people so we all decided to twin it for a day around town. Nothing like an easy Saturday afternoon in some ArtPrize gear! 

You need some ArtPrize merch in your life. Grab some goodness in their store or make sure to stop by the Holiday Pop-Up tonight! 

Thanks to Jaenell for her time and ArtPrize for partnering with me for this post :) 

HOLIDAY POP-UP: ArtPrize Holiday Pop-Up Shop
INSTAGRAM: @artprize



*I worked with ArtPrize on this post but the content and opinions are my own.