The Rapidian

Juror Susan Szenasy looking for surprises

Szenasy is looking for a surprising experience with art in the urban environment. On September 24, she will reveal the top five contenders for the "Best Use of Urban Space" Award. I spoke with Susan about her jurying process and what she hopes to see in Grand Rapids.
Urban Space Award Winner, 2011 SALVAGED LANDSCAPE, Catie Newell

Urban Space Award Winner, 2011 SALVAGED LANDSCAPE, Catie Newell /Holly Bechiri

Urban Space Award Winner, 2010 PLAN B, Beerhorst Family

Urban Space Award Winner, 2010 PLAN B, Beerhorst Family /Rick Beerhorst family

One of my personal highlights of ArtPrize are the juried awards.  Listening to the jurors respond to the artwork they see and ArtPrize as an event and competition widens my own perspective and perceptions in viewing the art on display.

This year, ArtPrize 2012, allows the public a closer engagement with the jurying process. For each category in the juried awards the jurors will reveal their top five contenders, five days before the first round of voting ends. In addition, a live televised discussion between the jurors will take place, allowing the public a glimpse into the values, tastes and thoughts that go into selecting a winning piece.

The juror selecting the winner of the "Best Use of Urban Space" award is Susan Szenasy. A constant traveller, Szenasy is an expert in architecture and design. Szenasy works as the editor of Metropolis Magazine in New York and routinely explores the factors contributing to the vitality of cities, which makes her a fitting choice for juror of the urban space award. 

I asked Szenasy to describe the characteristics of a successful work. Without knowing what she will encounter, she will be looking for a piece that animates the environment in which it is placed. The work should have a relationship to the space and to the public.

"It should surprise me in some way." Perhaps it will be a piece that acts as a landmark, a "meet me at the ______" work. Perhaps it will encourage relaxation from the busyness surrounding it, or be an object inspiring awe. It must be meaningful in some way, connecting to our senses. It may do this through scale, through color, through texture, through some interactive feature, through sound or movement or maybe in the story it tells and the thoughts and questions the work inspires.

In talking with Szenasy it became clear that there isn't any formula that she expects the winning artist to adhere to. She wants to walk the city with all of her senses attuned and experience the work in the context it finds itself. In a recent article in Metropolis, Visual Fixation, Szenasy laments the priority we as viewers tend to give to the eyes. "Let’s all ask ourselves how we can make our cities, buildings, interiors, and objects serve the multi-sensory creatures that we are," she writes. I am interested in how this desire for a multi-sensory experience will affect her choosing of the winning artwork.

Szenasy is very familiar with the city of Grand Rapids. Before the pyramid existed at Steelcase, she recalls meeting with designers who were unveiling a new product. In early September she moderated a panel discussion at Kendall College of Art and Design entitled "The Difference Between Art & Design." She has walked our streets and followed our downtown's development as well as the effects of ArtPrize. Last year, Szenasy's friend juried the Sustainability award and her positive experience influenced Susan's acceptance this year of the role as juror.

Be sure to follow the selections of Susan Szenasy and the other jurors by attending or tuning in to the Short List Event on September 24 at 6:30.


More about Susan:

Susan S. Szenasy is the editor-in-chief of Metropolis, the New York City-based magazine of architecture, culture and design. During her 17 years in that position, the magazine has gained international recognition and has won numerous awards.

Susan is the author of several books on design, including The Home and Light. She holds an MA degree in Modern European History from Rutgers University and teaches design history and design ethics at New York’s Parsons School of Design.

She is the co-founder of R.Dot (Rebuild Downtown Our Town), a coalition of New Yorkers who came together after the 9/11 tragedies to contribute their expertise to building the 21st century metropolis at the site of the former World Trade Center.

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