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ArtPrize adjusts the architecture for 2012 event

The ArtPrize team announced this morning to a room of partners some of the changes they will be making to the structure of the event for 2012 and beyond.
Sign at UICA encourages visitors to vote

Sign at UICA encourages visitors to vote /Katy McAvoy

Underwriting support from:
Mother and her child get a close up look of top ten winner "Rain," by Lynda Cole

Mother and her child get a close up look of top ten winner "Rain," by Lynda Cole /Vince Dudzinski

"Progressive Movement(s)" by Everrt Beidler, winner of Ox-Bow Fellowship juried award in ArtPrize 2011

"Progressive Movement(s)" by Everrt Beidler, winner of Ox-Bow Fellowship juried award in ArtPrize 2011 /Vince Dudzinski

This morning, at the Sponsor Launch Breakfast, ArtPrize unveiled some significant changes to the annual event for ArtPrize 2012 September 19- October 7. 

Catherine Creamer, Executive Director, started the event by sharing some of the things that her team has learned. "People want to love art," she began, stressing the importance of removing barriers so that they can do that. "We don't tell them what matters to them, we want to show them that they matter."

Creamer divulged that the second main thing her team had learned was the idea that "debate is good." With increased interest from international media, daily coverage and presence from local media, and nearly half a million tweets shared during the event, she said the conversation is rising to the level that it is becoming "impossible to ignore."

Rick DeVos, founder of ArtPrize, underlined their continued commitment to "the three basics: anyone can enter as an artist; anyone can be a venue; anyone can vote." However, he explained, within that framework some adjustments will be made based on suggestions they heard throughout the past year's event.

Significant adjustments

The calendar, though the same range of dates, will be adjusted as follows:

First round voting will be extended through the second weekend. Public voting (for all artwork) will be extended through Saturday, September 29th. The Top Ten will then be announced on Sunday, the 30th, with the second round of voting (one vote for a voter's favorite of the top ten) ending on Thursday October 4th. The Winners Announcement will be held on Friday, October 5th.

Lists, to help voters track work that is trending, will be adjusted significantly as well. On September 24th, a juried award nominee shortlist will be shared. This creates, DeVos said, "a new platform for the professional voice." ArtPrize will also be bringing back the Top 25 list, this time at the same time as the juror's list is revealed on the 24th rather than from the beginning.

Along with revealing the jurors' and public's trending picks for the last week of the first round of public vote, awards are also significantly adjusted.

Public vote awards will now be as follows:

  • First: $200,000
  • Second: $75,000
  • Third: $50,000
  • Fourth through Tenth: $5,000

Juried awards will be as follows:

  • $20,000 each for 2D, 3D, Time, Urban, and Venue awards.
  • $100,000 for the Juried Grand Prize, determined by a panel of judges.

This new structure for award levels brings the total for awards granted to $560,000, a small jump up from previous years.

Call for continued input

DeVos explained that the changes they have made have been a result of receiving- and listening to- suggestions from the community. He encouraged everyone to continue to let their team know of ideas they may have for changes or improvements. "Obviously, we love new ideas," he quipped.

Scott VanderLeek, Senior Vice President of 5/3 Bank and member of the ArtPrize Board of Directors, shared some additional event changes and ways for partners and sponsors to get involved.

Along with events, transportation, and other opportunities, he revealed that Education Days would now be created for every day of the event. He postured that we are bringing a generation of children and showing them "an urban culture where art wins," and wondered aloud how this exposure could shape and expand their understanding of art in their world.

"Our city is responding to art," he said, encouraging everyone to make sure that happens to its fullest extent. "Be a catalyst."

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I, for one, am really excited about these changes. If I'm being honest, I'm not an "art" person. I have been exposed to the arts over the years...I have artist friends and have gone to more exhibitions than I can count. My boyfriend is completing his Master's of Fine Arts at Kendall and his studio is our basement. I see art first hand, all of the time. I talk through pieces with him, explore meanings and we walk down the winding road of philosophical thoughts and try to figure out "what it means". While I understand art is subjective, I know how much technicality is involved. I've heard stories of art students and the critiques they go through while in school, sometimes with their artwork being ripped to shreds because it's lacking technical merit. So, just because I like something, or am drawn to something (or something takes up half a city block so we can't ignore it), doesn't mean I know the full extent of the artist's ability. 

I think the people's vote is a great thing. I think our community is fully engaged in ArtPrize every year, and enjoys taking in that much culture in such a short amount of time. We feel powerful and important by having a vote and that's a great thing. But, that vote only goes so far when (a) very few people see every piece of work, and are voting by a sample much smaller than the entire hub of work in ArtPrize and (b) we only know so much about the technical aspect of art. I understand we're all at different levels of these two points, and that's okay. Some people see more of ArtPrize than others, and some people are more educated in the art world than others. Having jurors look at the art from a whole new vantage point makes me that much more excited for ArtPrize 2012.


And lastly, maybe having a those professional jurors out there will be a learning tool for people like myself who sometimes find it hard to absorb art from a more objective standpoint. I think Grand Rapids can learn a lot from this new change. 

Anyone who knows me will not be surprised that I don't find the changes to artprize significant enough to jump on the bandwagon.  As a professional fine-artist, I still have many questions that need to be addressed.

If you want the conversation to contrast the public vote with the juried vote, then why not have equal prize money?

Why does the prize money have to be so much?  Greed does not make a productive incentive to make good art, as the last three years have shown us.

Why do artists have to pay to enter while, institutions, bars, restaurants and parking garages rake in the cash?  Seems like in the pyramid scheme of things artists are being exploited.  Artists should be paid to participate just like any other professional would be.

Do any of the profits go back to the institutions who nurture the arts all year around?  I personally think artprize is sucking the life blood away from the established arts institutions in this town.

I guess I should not be surprised that the ones who designed this ill conceived event would not be the ones able to fix it.  Hopefully more artists and institutions will pressure artprize for more sensible changes or risk less and less participation by them. 


Here are two simple, proactive, ideas to consider if Grand Rapids really would like to build a world class art event. 


  1. ArtPrize needs to make the prize money between a public vote and the professional awards equal. Other wise you are just sending out the message that you think popular opinion trumps knowledge about art.  
  2. Here is the tough one. You need to turn the reigns and the funding of the organization over from the The Devos family.  Their political and religious viewpoints are a liability to any type of long term viability in the art world.