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ArtPrize 10: An appreciation from a non-artist perspective

Maybe it's because I'm older and more introspective, but as I look forward to ArtPrize 10, I am reminded of how the beauty an artist creates can unify humanity in deeply profound ways.
Artwork that hangs in my home, courtesy of my artist husband

Artwork that hangs in my home, courtesy of my artist husband /Ryan Fisher

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The impact of art

  •  “Every artist was first an amateur” - Ralph Waldo Emerson
The very first ArtPrize installation I saw my first time to Grand Rapids

The very first ArtPrize installation I saw my first time to Grand Rapids /Beth Fisher

Street signs in full display reminding visitors and locals of ArtPrize 10

Street signs in full display reminding visitors and locals of ArtPrize 10 /Beth Fisher

I moved to Grand Rapids a little less than two years ago from Fort Wayne, Indiana. After living and raising my daughter there for eighteen years, it goes without saying that it holds many memories and a special affinity for me. The second largest city in Indiana, it parallels Grand Rapids in many ways. Yet, the one way in which Fort Wayne – and most cities for that matter – doesn’t hold a candle to GR is when it comes to “the expression or application of human creative skill and imagination, typically in a visual form such as painting or sculpture”…otherwise known as, art.

When I began traveling to Grand Rapids on the weekends to visit my now husband, I would have two hours and forty-five minutes to look forward to what he had planned for us. Throughout the week, he would send overviews and links to various local restaurants, concert venues, coffee shops and the like. Always one for new experiences, I waited with great anticipation for the incoming weekly information.

“Next weekend is ArtPrize,” read one particular message back in 2015.

“What’s that?” I naively responded.

(He married me anyway).

Mind you, my husband is an artist. An actual artist. This blows the minds of those of us who resign ourselves to never winning at Pictionary, let alone being able to draw or otherwise create something from nothing. That he and other artists can literally turn a blank slate into a discernable picture never ceases to amaze me; yet, it’s more than just the inherent skill. What an artist’s skillfulness can convey to the world is immeasurable.

Art speaks. Art moves. Art emotes. 

Every year, ArtPrize speaks and moves and emotes more than the year before. Why is this?

I would argue this cannot be simply summed up with one broad stroke of the stereotypically brushed answer of "subjectivity," but rather goes much more to the core of human experience and its alignment against the backdrop of cultural significance.

The prize money awarded at ArtPrize, however, is not subjective. There is big money at stake. As stated in its site, “You decide which artists will take home the $250,000 in public vote awards.”

What is most interesting to me about this is that the “you” who gets to decide who the “best” artists are is us – the public. And as we know, the public is comprised of an enormous cultural melting pot. Those who can look at a piece of art and immediately know that the scale is off, and those of us who have no idea what that even means. Thus, how art speaks and moves and emotes to each of us is vastly different.

As it should be.

Our worlds are different. Our hurts and pasts and presents are different. Our experiences are different.

Our stories are different.

And therein lies the beauty.

Art unifies and bridges emotional divides in ways which no other kind of healing can do. Without uttering a word, without begging for an answer, without taunting for a side to be taken, art stirs something deep within each of us.

Whether it’s viewing a people group from a more understanding perspective or solidifying one’s political or religious alignment (or perhaps lack thereof), artists have the ability to convey transformational meaning to their audiences on a level that no other public forum can do. 

This year, as ArtPrize 10 will no doubt be showcasing pieces which deal with societal brokenness, may we..."us"...the public...espy beyond that and behold the greater collective of humanity – as a unified whole.

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