PHOTOS: BRYAN ESLER, ERIC TANK, JEREMY KUHN, JEFF WILKINSON
Have you ever been in a room where everyone else is just as excited or more to be right where you are? That’s what the ArtPrize awards party felt like!
Before the awards started the crowd was treated to the energy driven sound of Vox Vidorra (according to their website, the band’s name is a multilingual neologism and alliteration meaning ‘the voice of the life you’re meant to live’). Vox Vidorra played a funky blend of soul music that made us jump out of our seats and bust a move (the wine in my hand didn’t hurt either). The Civic Theatre was such a gorgeous setting for the award ceremony, the atmosphere was electric as the crowd buzzed while waiting for the ceremony to begin.
Rick DeVos made a grand entrance and stunned the crowd with a mind blowing fact — kids that were 6th graders for the first Artprize were now seniors in high school. Rick let audience think about that for a minute as he reflected on how each and every participant, artist, volunteer, and community member played a part in impacting those kids’ outlook on the community and art in general. He expressed how he has enjoyed how ArtPrize makes conversations happen – the buzz that happens around the “must see” pieces, what people like and don’t like. He mentioned that finding a way to include all members of the community in artistic discourse is what Artprize is all about, and that they truly succeeded this year.
A representative from DTE Energy took the stage stating that Awards night was the culmination of a lot of hard work over the year. ArtPrize is an economic juggernaut for the Grand Rapids community, and each year as ArtPrize has grown so to has the community around it. The competition brings people here from out of town and provides them with the opportunity to do what all of us have done already – fall in love with this great city! He ended his speech by quoting Picasso – “Art washes away from the soul the dust of every day life,” which drew tremendous applause. Here we were living the Picasso life, washing away our daily cares and experiencing a life of art. How could you NOT applaud?!
There was certainly a lot of art packed into downtown, most of which will disappear now that the competition has eneded.
ArtPrize7 saw 162 venues over three square miles of Grand Rapids. Creative Director Todd Herring provided some background and explanation of the event and different categories, pointing out that there is sometimes tension between the Jury Award and the Public Vote . . . what better way to ease the tension than with a impromptu musical number! Todd’s lyrics included such gems as everyone being a “big old happy family this year” . . . as well as “new found love for one another between the jury and the public” . . and took a little stab at the public but smoothed it over quickly with “the public finds beauty in everything and that’s okay, that’s called MichiganNice!” and “We’re better together than we’ve ever been apart!! I like the big and shiny things like my head [Todd’s bald] and you like cerebral conceptual art!” After a harmonic solo with two stage hands he ended with “Art trumps politics when we’re together . . . Ok, that’s enough!” Then he laid out the four categories (2D, 3D, Time Based, and Installation), which pieces qualified for each category, and introduced the next whirlwind act.
Whirlwind indeed! Next we were entertained by the Jenison High School Drum line, heard from PNC about their Education Days, and recognized Sitelab for the outstanding Venue Award.
The awards for each category were presented by various participants of ArtPrize and community leaders like Mayor Heartwell and Mayor-elect Rosalynn Bliss. Then Rick DeVos took the stage once again to help introduce the top two winners. He reminded us that ArtPrize has two major principles; (1) it is radically open, everyone is welcome, and (2) it is independently organized . . . this combination leads to an event that is thrilling, terrifying, and impossibly beautiful – it is for everyone and because of everyone… and we agree!
Northwoods Awakening won both its Category Award and the Public Vote. The stunned artist stated he was truly amazed and you could see the joy evident on his (and his wife’s) face.
The $200,000 jury award went to Higher Ground (aka the pink house with the people swinging through the windows). Hauntingly beautiful, it was said to embody the ideals of ArtPrize by thinking outside the box of what people typically consider “art”. The allure of swingers’ feet glimpsed through the window, the sheer size of the piece, and the dedication of the performers all made it one of a kind and set it above the rest. The artist’s speech was quick and to the point- she thanked the performers, stating that the piece was dead without them, and ended with “thanks for the money, go ArtPrize!”
Then just like that… it was over… at least for some of us. Each year many of the pieces are purchased privately and will delight their buyers for the rest of the year. As for the rest of us… well I guess we’ll just have to wait for next year’s ArtPrize to capture and titillate our imagination. I for one can’t wait to see what they come up with next!