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ArtPrize leadership looks ahead, plots course for the future

ArtPrize leadership shares their vision for the future of the event, details about Project 1 by ArtPrize and how the decision was made to make the event biennial.
A view of Ah-Nab-Awen Park during ArtPrize 2016.

A view of Ah-Nab-Awen Park during ArtPrize 2016. /Kiran Sood Patel

Underwriting support from:
ArtPrize 2016.

ArtPrize 2016. /Kiran Sood Patel

ArtPrize 2016.

ArtPrize 2016. /Kiran Sood Patel

In June, ArtPrize announced some major changes ahead as the art festival approaches its tenth anniversary this year.

Beginning this year, ArtPrize will be held biennially, meaning the next competition will take place in Fall 2020. In Fall 2019, a brand new endeavor titled “Project 1 by ArtPrize” will take place. ArtPrize Executive Director Jori Bennett said ArtPrize leadership gathers feedback from key stakeholders every year. Bennett said the team has a great sense of where venues, artists, sponsors and volunteers are.

“Using the tenth year as that leaping off milestone to reflect on where we’ve been and where the city is right now, based on where it was in 2009, was one factor that we were looking at and talking to the board over the last many months and years,” Bennett said.

Most importantly, Bennett said, “We think of ourselves as an evolving experiment.”

“We launched as an experiment and throughout the history of ArtPrize we really endeavored to keep the experience really exciting for our visitors, and our artists and our venues so it’s really important to us that we continue to experiment and try new things,” she said.

Kevin Buist, ArtPrize Artistic Director, noted that moving away from the competition aspect each year introduces new possibilities.

“The possibilities suddenly become so exciting,” Buist said. “Where you have double the time to run up to these projects and you have the ability to take this incredible team that we have and steer their resources toward investing in and developing these public art projects, instead of officiating a fair and equitable competition.”

But ArtPrize didn’t want to eliminate the organic activity and fun that comes with the competition all together. So the obvious choice was to alternate, Buist said.

Bennett said the overall response to the announcement has been positive.

“Many people were expecting a change,” Bennett said. “Maybe some people might have guessed that ArtPrize might have eventually gone to a biennial. That’s sort of a theme that happens with citywide art events is eventually for sustainability reasons, they go to a biennial or even a triennial many times.”

But the announcement of Project 1 in the years in between was likely a surprise to many, she added.

In keeping with the spirit of evolution and experimentation, Project 1 will feature a single or small group of artists presenting a citywide art project taking place September-October 2019.

Project 1 will exist in more than one physical location, Buist said, with at least some of it taking place downtown. The project will have a run of four to six weeks and be punctuated by a series of performances and gatherings of many kinds, he added. Programming could look like an opening reception, speaker and panel programming or concerts and screenings. All are possibilities.

“Community involvement while it’s installed is something that’s paramount,” Bennett said. “What this affords us to do, when we announce the artists in early 2019, whether it’s one artist or a small handful, but because we’ll know the artist we’re working with, we’re going to be able to do some deeper educational activity and programming.”

As far as the response to the announcement from local businesses, Bennett said that once she’s had a chance to dive further into what Project 1 entails, businesses have been excited about the new opportunity.

Once more details are announced early next year, Bennett hopes businesses will see Project 1 will continue to drive traffic and activity downtown.

Responses from artists have been mixed, Buist said. For artists who had a project planned for 2019, it could be disappointing. He has also heard relief from some artists who have participated for multiple years in a row. Buist also spoke to venue partners including museums prior to the announcement. Many of them have had the most positive response to the announcement. For them, he noted, the annual cycle throughout ArtPrize has been a different way of working for them.

“This two-year cycle allows them to have a planning period and a development period of their ArtPrize show that they’ve told us they’re really excited about,” he said.  

For Bennett, she is most excited about the opportunity for ArtPrize staff to look at its role as a team differently.

“Our team is so strong here, that it’s fun to have a new challenge,” Bennett said.

Both Bennett and Buist encourage Grand Rapidians to attend ArtPrize 10 this fall to see what’s in store. ArtPrize 10 will be held September 19-October 7, 2018.  

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