Metro Detroit Artists to Invade ArtPrize

The third annual ArtPrize event opens in Grand Rapids this week. ArtPrize is a festival where the public vote on the art pieces they like best at hosted sites around the West Michigan city. WDET’s Rob St. Mary takes a look at what this event featuring art from around the world means to several Metro Detroit artists.

(click the audio link above to hear the story)

To characterize the amount of time Windsorite Laura Barnhard spent on her ArtPrize piece as “a commitment” might be an understatement. She’s worked for just about a year, roughly 3,000 hours, to bring a three panel, seven foot by 15 foot piece entitled “The Ceremony of the Oracle” to life.

“I’m painting by about four… and then paint til about six-seven in the morning. So, everyday I’m trying to get in at least 12 hours.”

And she says creating the piece has been all-consuming.

“Nothing but eating, sleeping, painting. That’s it. I’m not going to parties, I’m not going to birthday events, I’m not doing anything. This is what I do. So, I’m really excited to be done ‘cause I can’t wait to get out and do things.”

During the Grand Rapids ArtPrize, Barnhard’s triptych will be on display at the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum, right next to a massive chunk of the Berlin Wall. During the annual event, artists come with thousands of cards, stickers and other items to give to attendees, seeking their vote. Barnhard says she hopes her promotion plan helps.

“That’s it. Postcards and hopefully word of mouth… people come out… and it’s a pretty big venue so hopefully it will get some foot traffic from that.”

And getting attention could mean big dollars for artists like Barnhard.

Founded in 2009 by Rick DeVos – the grandson of Amway’s co-founder – ArtPrize gives away about $475,000 in prize money annually.

Over the past two years, well over a thousand indoor and outdoor public art pieces have been displayed during each ArtPrize. During the event, visitors vote via internet or smartphone app on which pieces of art they like most. The top vote getter during the 19 day event wins a grand prize of $250,000.

While winning prize money would be nice there are other considerations for some attending ArtPrize from the Detroit area. Jeff DeBruyn is with the Imagination Station – an art and community campus currently under development in Corktown. While not an artist, his organization is sponsoring a piece called “Salvaged Landscape” by Catie Newell. The large sculpture made from burnt wood from a blighted house will be on display at the Grand Rapids Art Museum during ArtPrize.

DeBruyn says having a piece connected to the Detroit non-profit will hopefully generate some exposure and possibly create cross-state interactions.

“I’m from the west side of the state and I know how people over there sometimes tend to think. I know how people from the east tend to think about the westsiders. So this is really a plan to get people to come together, visit another part of the state… and we think it’s totally going to promote economic development within Michigan.”

DeBruyn says Newell and others connected to the Imagination Station are planning a fundraiser in Grand Rapids on September 25th to get people in West Michigan interested in what they are doing here in Detroit.

“We’d love to have you come and visit ArtPrize and check out the vision for the Imagination Station and promote economic development between the two sides of the state.”

One Detroiter who finds the Grand Rapids crowds appreciative of his performance art is Russ Taylor known by his stage name Satori Circus. Last year, Taylor did a five-day around the clock performance which included him doing improv pieces around the city depending on the location and the crowd.

“It was just kind of phenomenal that I’ve had the response that I had. And to me, that’s a lot. You know, 15 people… 20 people… texting you or e-mailing you or dropping notes on FB asking when you are going to be out there, what time, where we can find you? Last year, you were the best performer out there. I’m like… wow, this is so strange… I was just goofing around.”

Taylor says Grand Rapids is invaded by people from around the world during the two-and-a-half weeks of ArtPrize. He says it’s quite impressive to take in. Taylor says having one of the heirs of Amway as the creator of ArtPrize makes him think, what if one of Detroit’s industry heirs considered a like-minded spectacle?

“It would be nice to see a Ford… or a Fisher… or whoever. You know, Detroit’s amazing. We have like wonderful talent here.”

As for Taylor, he says he’s planning to do something for this year’s ArtPrize but isn’t exactly sure what. In any case, when the event opens in Grand Rapids this week, rest assured Metro Detroit will be represented at the international art event.

I’m Rob St. Mary – WDET News

For more information on ArtPrize:

For more on the pieces the interviewed artists will be presenting:

Laura Barnhard - "The Ceremony of the Oracle":

Catie Newell - "Salvaged Landscape":

Satori Circus: