The Rapidian

Artist monk survives ArtPrize dating game

Jamie Treadwell gives a behind the scenes story of how a newly arrived local artist figured out the ArtPrize connection process for artists and venues.
Jamie Treadwell in his studio

Jamie Treadwell in his studio /David Lindsay

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ArtPrize behind the scenes, the Artist/Venue Connection

How does an artist get connected to ArtPrize? And how do the venues figure out what artists will exhibition with them? Here's an inside look at the process behind the scenes, tracking one unusual story.



Cluster of Light

Cluster of Light /Jamie Treadwell

I haven’t done online dating, and probably shouldn’t anyways. I’m known as the Urban Monk. Monks don’t date; they shouldn’t anyways.

Lack of experience in that whole dating game business may have put me at a disadvantage for getting into ArtPrize 2016. I almost blew it my first time around.

I’m new to Grand Rapids. I arrived in October 2015, on the last day of ArtPrize. I rushed to get over here from London, England. Spent the whole day touring the exhibitions and even got into the civic theatre for the award presentations. I loved what I saw. Some wonderful art for sure. But also the sheer magnitude of the innovative concept won me over. I knew I had to get into ArtPrize 2016.

I’m also known as Coach/Artist My work as a personal performance coach and professional artist has been centered over in Europe. I’ve been living over there for about 30 years. However, I’m from Michigan, born and bred here, University of Michigan School of Art graduate. But 30 years overseas is a long time. I’m a foreigner as far as ArtPrize is concerned.

ArtPrize is organized through its website. The genius of ArtPrize is that the website serves as a sort of online dating agency. Artists and venues each sign up. The venues go first, qualifying to be a host and registering in the system. Once they are in place the artists register. They post their artwork and various information about themselves, their art, and their ArtPrize project on the website. This part kicks off in April.

Then the dating game happens. There’s a two-month window for the speed dating to take place in which the artists and venues find their perfect match.

I can see where this can be a nerve wracking process. It caught me by surprise.

In a dating scenario, I was thinking that one should be wary of the first girl that grabs you as you walk in the door. It’s too soon to commit, one needs time to check out the options. In my case, I had no idea of who grabbed me so fast, and I had thought I wasn’t even in the game yet.

Registration for ArtPrize artists opened on April 18 and ran to June 9. I figured there wasn’t a big rush, but I did want to get started. On April 20 I went to the website just to check out what was needed. I noticed that I had to get some information together: post my intended artwork, write an artist’s biography, describe my project and put in all the details about size and medium and such.

I was travelling at the time, so I decided to just get started late one night and work on all this over the following few days. So I posted my name and put in a picture of my painting ‘Cluster of Light’. Nothing else. I clicked the ‘save’ button thinking that this was not yet made public. I could fill out the rest of the information later.

I was wrong.

The next morning I got an email from Jane Lovett. Her email started with “We'd love to have you consider Peaches as your ArtPrize venue.  We are very impressed with your piece “Cluster of Light” and think Peaches would be a good match for it.”

The email was long and very impressive. But I was caught totally by surprise. A B&B in Grand Rapids? The B&B near my house in London came to mind. A small place. Run by an elderly couple. My painting would be hung on the door to the loo. There would be two visitors during the entire ArtPrize. I had no idea what Peaches was. I had no idea that it is one of the most exciting venues in ArtPrize. I had no idea that I had hit gold on my first attempt.

I balked.

I wrote back an email to Jane, essentially to say “Let’s keep in touch.”

The following day I did some research, and it was like discovering too late that the best girl in the place was the one who grabbed me at the door. I retraced my steps. You can guess what happened next. At least those familiar with the dating game can guess.

I was sent packing.

I called Jane directly. She had thought I wasn’t interested. Sorry. She was inundated with requests from artists. She had filled up her place with over 20 artists. In just a day or two she was fully booked.

Ouch. I blew it and I knew it. I’m not the only one who realizes that this is a great venue. But I had turned it down. Unbelievable.

But then that fire flared inside me; that fire that sets a man walking 500 miles to win back the girl. Being a sort of Monk I didn’t exactly know this experience firsthand, but that primal instinct of Man winning Girl took over anyway. There was now one consuming goal in my sights, and that was to get into the Peaches B&B for ArtPrize 2016.

When I got back to Grand Rapids I arranged to meet with Jane. I arrived early, waited, and then knocked on the door. “Oh Jamie, I’m so sorry we’re full this year. I’ve never had this happen before. So many artists so fast’.

I said that’s fine. I understand. We walked and talked, looking at the stunningly beautiful rooms. I couldn’t help pointing out a couple places where my painting would look great, if only I had got in touch sooner. At that point I would have been happy to get a place on the loo door. I just wanted to be part of the Peaches party.

Then Jane surprised me. She said, ‘You know, I just might have one space that might work for you.'  I restrained myself from giving her a massive bear hug.

“It’s over here in the alcove by the front door. It’s a small space, but it could be a nice welcome for people as they arrive to the house.'

There was no hesitation this time. “Yes, great idea. That would be perfect for my piece."

An alcove in a B&B entryway? You’ve got to be kidding. But I was in. I knew Peaches will be the most happening and fun venue at ArtPrize. The key is that I’m in the front door and now part of that team.

Jane is getting all the artists involved in making Peaches B&B a distinctive venue: Food and refreshments on the weekends, live painting demonstrations, a place to relax in a beautiful venue and comfortable couches. I just sent her my idea to do something fun for visitors. Essentially it's an invitation to get involved in the art making directly, working in collaboration with the artist. 

That would be fun. I love that interaction with people. I love the challenge of art making. I’m looking forward to the adventure that is ArtPrize. Come to and join the party!

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