The Rapidian

Early hours: Outdoor venues provide art opportunities beyond official ArtPrize hours

For those who may not have available time during official venue hours, here are some options for catching art when indoor venues are closed.
"Leaf Rings" by Terri Maloney-Houston can be found at the Grand Rapids Public Museum

"Leaf Rings" by Terri Maloney-Houston can be found at the Grand Rapids Public Museum /Eric Tank

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"Self-Portrait as Bunnies (The Bathers)" by Alex Podesta can be found in the Grand River

"Self-Portrait as Bunnies (The Bathers)" by Alex Podesta can be found in the Grand River /Eric Tank

"kNights Watch" by Justin La Doux can be found at the Ford Museum

"kNights Watch" by Justin La Doux can be found at the Ford Museum /Eric Tank

There's just not enough time to see all the art: it's a common complaint during ArtPrize season. Whether it's due to a limited schedule or a desire to see more of the work, venturing out to outdoor venues on off hours can help solve this "problem."

City parks like Ah Nab Awen, Sixth Street Bridge Park and VandenBerg (Calder) Plaza are filled with work. "Resonance" at Calder Plaza by Thin Air Studio is in stark contrast to its surrounding cement pathways and tall metal buildings. Like sophisticated renditions of childhood forest shelters, these structures beg you to duck inside them, creating a dissonance with their environment. Richard App, curator of the Calder Plaza venue and owner of year-round art venue, the Richard App Gallery in East Hills, says he gets involved because of the opportunities he gets to work with artists that he normally wouldn't work with. Along with working with artist in the Calder Plaza, App worked with the one artist that put anything in the river this year- "Self Portrait as Bunnies (The Bathers)" by Alex Podesta.

"That piece I think is brilliantly creative. The whole idea behind that is that if you were to wake up one morning as an adult with your imaginary friend that looks just like you," explains App. "It's super fun, it's super cool, and I've worked with the river before so I happily helped them do that. It's exciting."

App says there are additional challenges to working with City property- like time limits to putting work in the space. But there are other limits as well.

"You can't put too much on that Plaza. Number one there are weight restrictions on it, because of the parking garage below," he says. "Number two, you can't fill it up enough because you have to be able to get emergency vehicles on that Plaza at any time. There's more to curating that space than just putting work up there. If it was anything goes, I could fill the Plaza up easily, but I just can't do that."

With so many public spaces on offer for ArtPrize venues, though, the choices are till quite vast. See a full list of all public parks with ArtPrize entries in them here.

Along with parks, many regular venues also have outdoor work. Large collections of outdoor work can be found at both the Grand Rapids Public Museum and the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum, right across the street from each other. With easy access to the bridges taking visitors into the center of the city, visitors can be found spending time with the story told in kNights Watch, with the "King of Castle Savage" and "The Reclaimers" fighting off a hungry dragon. The charming characters, created out of used electrical outlet boxes, silverware and serving dishes, become something of a "Where's Waldo" scene as each of the multitude of characters has its own activity or personality.

The range of work at both of these venues doesn't stop at charm and found art, though. More traditional fine art execution can be found in pieces such as "Gravity" at the Ford, which recalls traditional Biblical scenes of angelic warriors or scenes of blind justice, and the more modern sculpture at the Public Museum, "Circle Series," which unfortunately is so close to other work that its presence is crowded out but the competing imagery around it.

Other venues have compelling outdoor work as well, such as Fifth Third Bank, whose outdoor stretches from the presentation of "alone | among" by local group progressive | ae on the corner of Ottawa and Lyon, to a large collection of figurative sculpture on the other end of the block at Lyon and Monroe. 

Though dependent on artists labeling their work correctly, the full list of entries to be found outdoors can be found on the ArtPrize website through utilizing their filters when searching for art.

ArtPrize seems to be missing any giant outdoor spectacle so monstrous that it's overshadowing the buzz of any other work this year, but there is still plenty to take in- from smile-inducing kitsch to traditional highly crafted sculpture- when traveling throughout our city outdoors.

"See as much as you can, don't listen to what other people say, form your own opinions, and enjoy it. Because it goes away so fast," says App. "It's one thing to say you've only got a limited amount of time and you want to see a couple impactful pieces. But you don't know what they're going to be until you see them."

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