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Grand Rapids’ ArtPrize is one of the largest art events in the world

This permanent mural was previously entered in Grand Rapids’ ArtPrize.
This permanent mural was previously entered in Grand Rapids’ ArtPrize.

If you visit Grand Rapids during ArtPrize, you’ll have a difficult time avoiding art in Michigan’s second-largest city.

Installations are in your hotel lobby, on the sidewalks, inside and outside museums, in restaurants and coffee shops, bars and breweries, even an auto body shop. Public art takes over three square miles of the city’s core during the independently organized international art competition.

Recognized as one of the world’s largest public art events, ArtPrize is expected to draw the typical 500,000 visitors for its 10th annual event Sept. 19 to Oct. 7.

Any artist over the age of 18 can enter and any space inside the ArtPrize district can be a venue. ArtPrize attracts artists from around the world by offering a large, diverse audience and paying out substantial prizes: a combination of public vote and juried awards totaling $500,000 in four categories: 2-D, 3-D, time-based and installation.

ArtPrize 10 is scheduled to have 1,269 entries at 166 venues. The entries are created by artists from 40 states and 41 countries. A search on ArtPrize.org shows no Kansas residents participating, though there are several with Kansas ties, including Jennie Kimbrough, who pursued graduate studies in art at Wichita State University from 2005-2006. She is showing a series of paintings and this is her second ArtPrize entry.

This is the final year the 19-day celebration will be an annual event. Earlier this summer, organizers revealed plans for ArtPrize to shift to a biennial schedule, returning for its 11th edition in 2020. In alternate years, a single artist or small group of artists will present a dynamic citywide public art project, the first of which will be titled “Project 1 by ArtPrize.”

My visit to ArtPrize 8 was my first time in Grand Rapids. I used touring the art installations as a way to explore the city’s best attractions. Start by downloading the free mobile app to get a preview of the art and venues. Some of the larger venues allow you to see many entries in a single location while checking off a must-see attraction at the same time.

Once in Grand Rapids, head to the centralized ArtPrize Visitor Pavilion to sign up to vote for your favorite art, pick up an event guide and maps, and plan your route with volunteers. Once you’re set up, start looking for art. It’ll be hard to miss.

The city is walkable and well connected by public transportation, especially during ArtPrize when bus lines offer extended hours and shuttles can get you around downtown as well as to some satellite locations. Follow ArtPrize’s color-coded Pantone Pathways from bus stops; nearly 90 percent of all venues are within one block of a pathway.

This event is independently organized, meaning each approved venue reviews requests from registered artists and decides what art to display. One of the most sought-after venues by artists is the Grand Rapids Art Museum, which typically closes their permanent exhibit to focus on their temporary ArtPrize gallery. During ArtPrize, admission is free and the museum remains open Mondays.

Docents lead tours of the ArtPrize works, and drop-in studio activities are scheduled on the weekends.

In addition to current entries this year, the museum also is exhibiting the ArtPrize 2014 grand prize winner “Intersections” by Anila Quayyum Agha. The immersive gallery installation is centered on a suspended cube casting shadows of interlacing patterns onto the room’s walls, ceiling and floor.

On the west bank of the Grand River, the Grand Rapids Public Museum houses more than 250,000 historic and cultural regional artifacts. During ArtPrize, they will have an outdoor exhibition and offer museum admission discounts.

Among the exhibits is a recreation of an 1890s Grand Rapids street scene and iconic furniture pieces showcasing the city’s history in designing and manufacturing residential and commercial furniture. For additional fees, you can ride a 1928 carousel and visit a 145-seat planetarium.

The Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum next door transforms its large lobby into an art gallery and also hosts outdoor installations during ArtPrize. Admission is free during the art event, so don’t miss the second floor exhibits that take you through the life of our 38th president.

First opened in 1981, the museum reopened in June 2016 after closing for eight months to add interactive exhibits, refresh the main exhibit area and build a new learning center.

Walk across the pedestrian bridge from the Presidential Museum to see DeVos Place Convention Center, one of the largest ArtPrize venues. In addition to seeing a lot of art, you’ll be able to view the center’s stunning architecture.

The Grand River right outside the museum also is a venue: this year a 24-foot diameter buoyant orb constructed with brightly colored defective and discarded seatbelts will float in the river on 128 two-liter soda bottles.

Grand Rapids Downtown Market will host a dozen ArtPrize entries this year and isworth a stop for all things Michigan-made, from barbecue to blueberry jam to a slice of what has been voted Michigan’s Best Pie at Sweetie-licious Bake Shoppe. The indoor market hall has more than 20 vendors and two full-service restaurants.

You can’t come to Grand Rapids without exploring why it’s nicknamed Beer City USA. Sip your way across the Beer City Ale Trail, which includes more than 80 craft breweries within the Grand Rapids’ metro area.

If you’re limited on time and mostly focused on seeing art, four of the city’s breweries are ArtPrize venues this year. Among them, Founders Brewing Co. not only displays entries in their taproom, they get in on the ArtPrize fun by offering a limited edition brew that regularly sells out.

This year’s ArtPrize beer is Trigo (Spanish for wheat), a pale wheat lager described by the brewer as having “big aromatics, rounded flavor and a clean finish.” A Founders culinary team member created the original artwork for the label. Six miles east of downtown, Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park is one of about a dozen satellite venues for ArtPrize and devotes a large indoor gallery to entries.

The 158-acre campus is one of the world’s 100 most-visited art museums, with indoor and outdoor themed gardens, a five-story tropical conservatory and a permanent collection of nearly 300 sculptures that includes major works by such as Auguste Rodin and Edgar Degas.

You’ll find ArtPrize entries at downtown hotels, including the JW Marriott, Amway Grand Plaza and CityFlatsHotel, and you don’t have to leave the event behind when you dine, either. You’ll find a wide variety of eateries-turned-galleries. Sundance Grill & Bar, a hot spot for breakfast and lunch, is exhibiting 11 works this year. Reserve Wine & Food features a large-scale oil painting of oceanic waves that stretches the length of the bar of the bi-level bistro. The work by Brooklyn artist Ran Ortner won the inaugural ArtPrize 2009.

ArtPrize

What: 1,269 public art entries in 2-D, 3-D, time-based and installation categories vying for $500,000 in prize money

Where: Grand Rapids, Michigan

When: Sept. 19 to Oct. 7

More info: www.artprize.org and www.experienceGR.com

What: ArtPrize, 1,269 public art entries in 2-D, 3-D, time-based and installa

tion

categories vying for $500,000 in prize money

Where: Grand Rapids, Michigan

You

ll find ArtPrize entries at downtown hotels, including the JW Marriott, Amwa

y

Grand Plaza and CityFlatsHotel

,

and you don

t have to leave the event behind when

you dine, either. You

ll find a wide variety of eateries-turned-galleries. Sundance

Grill & Bar, a hot spot for breakfast and lunch, is exhibiting 11 works this y

ear.

Reserve Wine & Food features a large-scale oil painting of oceanic waves th

at

stretches the length of the bar of the

bi

-level bistro. The work by Brooklyn artist Ran

Ortner won the inaugural ArtPrize 2009.

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