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ArtPrize speaker series to engage questions of urbanism

The ArtPrize Speaker Series this year includes old favorites like Critical Discourse and Shortlist, as well as events highlighting how artists interact with and affect their surroundings, from architecture to artist-run collectives.
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So... Can art actually save cities?

"Yes and no. Art is not magic, and artists are not superheroes. But people can save cities, and artists are people, along with people who view, collect, and exhibit art."

-Kevin Buist, Exhibitions Director for ArtPrize



All events are held at The HUB, 41 Sheldon, unless otherwise noted.


Juried Awards Shortlist Event

  • September 23
  • 6-9 p.m.

The Re-Imagined City

  • September 24
  • 7-8:30 p.m.

Can Art Save Cities?

  • September 26
  • 7-8:30 p.m.
  • Ladies Literary Club, 61 Sheldon

Walker Art Center's Internet Cat Video Festival

  • September 27
  • 8-10 p.m.
  • Rosa Parks Circle, Monroe and Monroe Center

Critical Discourse

  • September 30
  • 6-9 p.m.

Artist-Run Michigan 

  • Tuesday, October 1
  • 7-8:30 p.m.

This year, Artprize is presenting a full roster of events - a speaker series- talking about art and artists, as usual. But this year, the organization chose to center a good portion of the programming around the theme of art and its intersection with urbanism. Three of the six events- Re-Imagined Cities, Can Art Save Cities? and Artist-Run Michigan- all deal with cities.

"The question of how art interacts with cities is baked into the ArtPrize DNA. From the outset, we thought about ArtPrize as a grand civic project, an event that transforms the city for a few weeks, and hopefully has a lasting effect as well," says Kevin Buist, Exhibitions Director. "ArtPrize is unique, but it's also part of a growing trend of art events, initiatives and exhibitions that are experimenting with technology, democratic engagement, and rethinking urban environments. At the core of this trend are some really important but vexing questions. How does the inclusion of vibrant art activity affect the growth of a city, both culturally and economically? Once you start talking about economics, all sorts of other issues pop up. What are artists providing, and what are they getting in return? And why is art, and creativity in general, so coveted by leaders looking to revitalize urban environments?"

These speaker series events, focusing specifically on cities and how artists interact with and contribute to them, are aimed at providing an opportunity for those questions to be discussed.

"These issues aren't new to ArtPrize," says Buist. "They've always been a part of the critical reaction to the event, in both positive and negative ways. This year we're diving in to those questions head first. I think ArtPrize can be not only an example of a city-focused art institution, but also a forum where the issues facing all such institutions can be explored."

The first city-focused event, "The Re-Imagined City," explores "the possibilities and pitfalls of architectural interventions in existing urban space" on Tuesday, September 24. The event is presented as a conversation between Eva Franch i Gilabert, Executive Director and Curator of the Storefront for Art and Architecture and Reed Kroloff, Director of Cranbrook Academy of Art & Art Museum.

"Can art save cities?" follows just two days later on Thursday, September 26. Anne Pasternak, Mel Chin and Manon Slome will discuss the role of contemporary art in urban revitalization. Each panelist, says Buist, will share strategies from their own practice and discuss productive ways forward. Speakers in this series are also the three grand jurors for this year's competition.

"[For the first time] the three jurors who select the $100,000 Juried Grand Prize will all be in town at the same time, so we're able to do programming with all of them," explains Buist.

The last event on Tuesday, October 1, "Artist-Run Michigan," focuses on how artists affect their environments, notably including artists dealing with the urban environment alongside those that investigate the natural environment of Michigan.

"Over the few years, I began noticing a lot of really exciting things happening all over Michigan: residencies, collectives [and] all sorts of projects. The thing a lot of them have in common is that they're started and run by artists themselves. The fact that there's not enough funding or foundational support for the arts is a tragedy, but it's also a given. We all know that, so what's next? Fortunately, there are a number of artists answering that question with action, and they're doing incredible work," says Buist.

The event is a "showcase of six artist-run initiatives from all over the state." The 15-minute presentations will be from artists at Rabbit Island Artist Residency, an island in Lake Superior purchased by artists using Kickstarter and turned into a residency; Complex Movements, a collective of designers, multimedia producers, and hip hop artists from Detroit who won an ArtPrize award last year; SiTE:LAB, a volunteer-run Grand Rapids organization that stages exhibitions in unused spaces, including two award-winning ArtPrize venues; Avenue for the Arts, a collection of Grand Rapids live/work spaces and galleries; Cabin Time Art Camp, a roving artist residency that travels to remote locations; and Flint Public Art Project, "a multi-faceted project by artists, architects and activists to do world-class arts programming in Flint."

"There are a lot of projects I could have chosen to highlight," says Buist. "I chose the projects I did because they each deal intelligently with one of two realities that I think are difficult to ignore for artists in this state. One, the state of Michigan cities. How are artists here influencing cities that are in all in various stages of transition? And two, the natural environment. For those of us who grew up here, it can be easy to overlook, but the natural qualities of Michigan are something that needs to be dealt with critically by artists, beyond pretty landscape paintings."

Beyond city-focused events, ArtPrize will again host a Juried Awards Shortlist Event, where jurors sit down and discuss their top selections in a public forum. The event gives a window into how jurors are looking at art and what they're looking for, while the general public is still voting as well. Each of the jurors of the five category awards will reveal and discuss their five nominees in each category.

Critical Discourse will once again happen one day after the top ten public selections have been revealed. Over the years, this event has become one of the most spirited and sometimes heated discussions in a large, moderated event hosted by the organization itself.

"Critical discourse is a fun, sometimes irreverent panel discussion about the public vote top ten," says Buist. "It's an ArtPrize tradition that we've done every year, and this year we have some really exciting surprise panelists that we're not announcing yet. It's going to be great."

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