The Rapidian

Shirts Just Want to Have Fun

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2009's Winning Design

 The winner of ShirtPrize in its inaugural year was titled Doves and Guns and was created by Scott Gundersen a teacher at Wayland High School and a former student Nick Zykowski.

Brian Edwards of ShirtPrize with some shirts

Brian Edwards of ShirtPrize with some shirts

Brian Edwards in reverse

Brian Edwards in reverse

Dove and Guns

Dove and Guns

When Brian Edwards, designer Chris Koens and Matt Fulk dreamed up ShirtPrize last year, it was a whim. A lark. It was intended to be a gentle parody of Grand Rapids' ArtPrize competition. "It was very tongue in cheek," said Edwards. Then, an article in The Grand Rapids Press boosted visibility and they had to get semi-serious about the project and ShirtPrize was launched.

ShirtPrize is an opportunity for graphic artists, illustrators, cartoonists and shirt designers to be involved in something while ArtPrize is taking over Grand Rapids.

"We're about artist exposure and fun," said Edwards. "We're giving artists who work on cotton canvas the opportunity to win a cash prize of 2.5 million. In Zambian Kwacha. That's about $500 in US currency."

The winner will also have a couple dozen shirts created for his or her personal use, and the winning shirt design will be available for purchase from ShirtPrize.

Artists who want to compete simply need to register at the ShirtPrize website, read and follow the rules and upload an original shirt design. Last year 75 artists competed for the Grand ShirtPrize and more than 10,000 people registered and voted.

"Once we got started last year, we found that people were really wanting an outlet like this to showcase their art and designs," said Edwards.

Voting takes place each week and the top two vote-getting shirts move into the finals round. More shirt designs are submitted each day and the top two during each voting period (a week) move forward to the finals. In four weeks, there will be eight designs competing for the Grand ShirtPrize.

But wait!

Cronies of Edwards' "People we respect and like," he said, "will choose two more shirts from all entries."

So ten shirts in all will be up for final voting. All voting takes place online and voters must register and can only vote one time per week. A new ShirtPrize website was created for this year's competition by Spearia and Edwards touts its accurate vote calculation capabilities.

The competition has begun taking artist entries, and voting officially begins on Aug. 27, with the first round of voting ending on Sept. 1. Weekly votes continue until late September, when the finals round begins. People can vote once in each round.

Where ArtPrize has venues, ShirtPrize offers bodies. The people who wear sample shirts around Grand Rapids are fondly referred to "Social Transmitters of Design" or STDs. Anyone with a promotional idea or angle is welcome apply to be a STD by pitching their scheme to ShirtPrize.

"Not many people are able to say they're part of a STD breakout in Grand Rapids," he said. Edwards is looking for 35-40 promoters. The group doesn't want ShirtPrize to be an online-only event and connecting like-minded people with fun events is part of what they are trying to do.

ShirtPrize is planning some events during ArtPrize (Sept. 23 through Oct. 10) to promote the project and encourage voting. Some will be in conjunction with other events like the annual open house at Destination 1111 others will stand alone.

"We'll do some meetups with our STDs at some of the local drinking establishments too," said Edwards. He plans on having paper ballots at the live events, but is wary of fraud. "After all, I'm from Chicago," he said.

The Shirtprize winner will be announced on Oct. 6. Shirt submissions and voting are on-going.

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