published: November 18th, 2009
ArtPrize took the city by storm and by surprise in the summer and autumn of 2009. The event, officially open from September 23rd to October 10th, offered something for every taste. The concept to put art among the people in ordinary surroundings was developed by Rick DeVos; it would be the public and not the curators and professional critics who would decide the winners of the competition. The total prize money of $449,000, the largest art competition purse in the world, drew 1262 professional and amateur artists. (Find more information to your right in Related Items)
When DeVos first unveiled his plans in April of 2009 the reactions were mixed and included many doubters. "Grand Rapids will become a laughing stock in the art world;" "It is American Idol for artists." But others embraced the idea and offered 159 venues located in a three square mile area. The Grand Rapids Art Museum was noticeably absent
Ran Ortner's nineteen-foot-wide oil on canvas, on display at the Old Federal Building, resonated with the public. Their votes garnered him $250,000 and first-place in the first ArtPrize competition.
Tracy Van Duinen's large, colorful mural became a permanent installation on the east wall of the Grand Rapids Children's Museum. One of the few installations that will remain in the city. He received $100,000 for second place.
Eric Daigh's three 4 X 6 foot portraits, on display at the Old Federal Building, were fashioned from thousands of push pins. Viewers were intrigued and voted these unusual works third place and $50,000.
David Lubbers of Grand Rapids place his large mobile, representing a school of fish, on a small, rocky islet in the Grand River between the Blue Bridge and the Pearl St. Bridge. He received enough votes for fourth place and $7000.
Bill Secunda's life-sized moose, constructed from 1200 pounds of welded nails, was popular with viewers and voters. On display at the B.O.B., it earned Secunda $7000 for fifth place.
Viewers flocked to see the Nessie, the Loch Ness sculpture, located in the Grand River between the Blue Bridge and the Fulton St. Bridge. The Nessie Project was created by a group of Grand Rapids artists who received $7000 for sixth place.
A kinetic sculpture, representing a swaying wheat field that was set in motion by an electric motor, was created by John Douglas Powers. Another winner displayed at the Old Federal Building that earned Powers $7000 and seventh place.
Sarah Grant's enormous sculpture, a decorated, 15-ton table and chairs honoring the city's furniture heritage, was highly visible atop the Blue Bridge. She received $7000 for eighth place.
Jason Hackenwerth's fanciful balloon sculpture, on display at UICA, received $7000 for ninth place. Michael Westra of Grand Haven took tenth place and $7000 for his kinetic sculpture also placed on the Blue Bridge.
ArtPrize generated enormous interest in the city and drew huge crowds. Overwhelmed by the response, many merchants were not prepared for the large numbers that thronged downtown, especially the restaurants. Excellent suggestions emerged for ways to make a good thing even better in 2010.