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EA reporter: Elizabeth Sanders
One of the best architectural features of the Eastown area is the front porch, according to Paul Moore, an Eastown resident of seven years. In summer on Friday nights, you can find Moore and his neighbors enjoying happy hour on one of their porches near Wilcox Park, while the neighborhood children play in the front yards. It’s the sense of community that Moore appreciates about Eastown.
Moore brings his appreciation of community to his role as the communication and marketing director of ArtPrize, the Grand Rapids open arts festival now entering its second year. The event, described as “part art festival, part social experiment” could not have happened without the support of the community, Moore said.
The event occurs within a three-mile downtown boundary Grand Rapids, with the exception of the new venue at Frederik Meijer Gardens and Sculpture Park. This year ArtPrize will take place from Sept. 22 to Oct. 10, 2010, with $449,000 in prize money and artists coming from far and near to participate in the unique opportunity.
“It was really a gigantic social experiment,” Moore said of 2009. “So we just wanted to see what would happen, never guessing it would blow up to be as huge as it was its first year.”
The success of the inaugural year has generated interest among Grand Rapids academic institutions, such as Grand Valley State University and Aquinas College. Though Aquinas is not within the event’s three-mile radius, the college is participating in at the Cathedral Square site on Division and Wealthy.
Other Eastown residents are also participating. Moore said four people from his street alone participated last year, as well as his neighbor’s granddaughter. This year he believes four of the five are returning to the event. ArtPrize has had the same good fortune with venues. Of the 159 venues used last year, 150 are returning this year, joining new venues for a total of 192 ArtPrize locations this year.
In addition to entering the event as an artist or participating as a voter, Eastown residents can go to the ArtPrize website and volunteer to act as guides, work the voter registration or open up their homes to visiting artists. One of the major expenses for out-of-town artists who participate is paying for hotel nights during the whole 17 days of the event.
With close proximity downtown by bus, bike or walking, Eastown is a good place for artists to stay and experience another part of Grand Rapids with strong ties to the creative community, Moore said. When people ask if the event will be brought to other cities, Moore said he always answers that it would not have been possible without the support of the City of Grand Rapids.
A Chicago native himself, Moore came to Grand Rapids for a job, met his wife Kristen and decided to stay in Eastown. ArtPrize is staying in Grand Rapids as well.
“There was an incredible pride that I lived here, and that the city responded to such a weird idea,” Moore said. “I don’t know if that would have happened anywhere else.”
As the concept grows, Moore said he would like to see ArtPrize become a time where people take on new projects, from art to new businesses.
“People are trying new things,” he said. “It’s not just an art project. It’s trying out retail, or a new restaurant. I think it could become an annual workshop for people in Grand Rapids to try something new.” And Eastown is a part of that.
“Eastown is a place to think, ‘If I am not doing what I do during the day, I would try this,’” Moore said. “That’s what ArtPrize is—a platform to try and experiment.”
To learn more about ArtPrize and take part in the community experiment, visit www.artpize.org.
As a neighborhood newsletter, the Eastown Access exists to support the Eastown Neighborhood Association of building, backing and broadening community -- by keeping residents and business owners informed and engaged in our community.