The Rapidian

Tweaking It

Underwriting support from:
Nested by Iowa artist Angela Pease at The BOB during ArtPrize

Nested by Iowa artist Angela Pease at The BOB during ArtPrize /mark rumsey

Now that ArtPrize 2009 is nearly behind us it becomes time to start considering ArtPrize 2010. This year over 37,000 people registered to vote, which shows that there is an obvious desire to participate. The question becomes how can we make that participation grow and become more meaningful than a mere thumbs up or thumbs down? This year over 1200 artists entered, scattered over a 3 mile square, how do we encourage artists to participate beyond placement of their work and marketing efforts? Over 300,000 votes were cast, how do we encourage those votes to be cast with a mind for understanding and evaluation?

One of the greatest challenges of ArtPrize 2009 was in navigating the event. If the size of the pitch were reduced ease of access would increase. Reducing the borders of ArtPrize to one square mile at the core of the city, where the primary attendee traffic congregated this year, would encourage competition thereby improving the quality of entries. Condensing the site would also encourage artists to consider new ways to engage with the built and public environments of our downtown. The denser footprint would also allow spectators to more easily navigate the event, allowing them to see a greater range of work. In seeing a broader spectrum of art viewers would find it easier to compare and contrast work, asking questions of themselves of why something may appeal to them and something else not.

Another substantial challenge was in understanding what was being voted on? What question was the thumbs up or thumbs down voting answering? Was it merely liking something to not or was it judging something as art or not. The way in which the public vote is used could be tweaked in much more interesting ways. The public vote could become an evaluation process in which voters are asked to make assessments. Voters could be asked to categorize artwork, is it Fine Art? Craft? Or is it considered Sculpture? Public Art? Painting? Performance? Circus Sideshow? Etc. The vote could even be shifted to ART or NOT ART. Asking voters to make a determination about the work is very different, and more vital, than asking voters if they like it or not. Whether someone likes something or doesn’t like something does not reflect how or why or if they have engaged with something. Maybe the vote could be as simple as - How long did you look at it? Or Does this mean anything? The simple thumbs up or thumbs down voting provides no platform with which to engage with the work, it is akin to asking someone what is their favorite color.

Post Script: As a matter of disclosure I need to state that I am an artist and did participate in ArtPrize 2009. As an artist, trying to make things that add to our collective experience, I am interested in how people "read" artwork. Everything visual is information that we can process and come to conclusions about based upon content and context.

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The irony is I voted your article "up" just like it was an ArtPrize entry.

did not realize that was a rapidian feature, maybe they should change it to "i read this" instead

Mark... I really like your perspective... however, evaluation is quite subjective... and that, to me, was the beauty of ArtPrize. I do think that the people did a good job of selecting the top 10 and tonight will show if the people really understand what art is meant to be.

I could see an option of different types of art and voting for those, but to ask someone a specific question like "did this piece move you".. we'd have a challenge.

Better yet, would be to have some sort of online dialogue, similar to the Rapidian. Where we could not only vote but explain why we voted the way we did. For example, I might vote down a piece because it was too crafty and I don't like things that are crafty, the don't speak to me. While someone else voted it up because it reminded them of their childhood. One isn't worse then the other, just different. How can we capture such comments. Sometime we have to do the simple, Up and Down.

But, I do like the idea of finding out WHY someone voted the way they did... it would certainly clarify the Up and Down a bit more.

Secondly, I do like the idea of "i read this and enjoyed it" as an option instead of just a thumbs up. Another way to tell if an article is worthy of front cover would be the comments that are written about it and maybe the chatter on twitter or other social media sites.

Anyway, thanks again for another well written piece and your work at the BOB was FANTASTIC!


I like the idea of an online dialogue as part of artprize2010, if it is about rebooting the conversation about art then lets really talk about the art we are interacting with.

Hey Ashima,

But Mark brings up a good point about bringing clarity to the voting. For example, it was my understanding you were not supposed to DOWN vote something unless you had a disagreement with it, not simply "I don't like things that are too crafty". In that case, you may have just walked away from the piece neutrally. Perhaps a "neutral" category would have been helpful for times where you didn't dislike a piece nor like it either.
I think our society is used to pushing buttons, many people pressed "DOWN" for things thinking "if I am not voting it UP, then the natural reaction is to vote it DOWN" instead of just walking away. Without that dialog, a DOWN vote just becomes a message of the voter's opposition for it to win instead.