Art Prize: The Starting Gates

Art Prize starts in Grand Rapids tomorrow.

Art Prize is an event put together by Dick DeVos’ son, Rick, as an alternative to yet another film festival. It’s a large open entry contest in which the prizes are awarded by popular vote (this year, there will be juried prizes as well). It’s good at bringing lots of people downtown–including busloads and busloads of kids–generating some excitement, and … getting people to look at “art.”

Given the open entry, there is a very wide range of quality in the art work. And since the voting system is popular, there’s a lot of catering to popular tastes–or those of the area. (For example, patriotic and religious artworks tend to do really well; a mosaic altarpiece won the top prize last year).

I’ve decided I’m going to blog some on Art Prize some this year because I’m fascinated by a truly popular art event.

One of my favorite things about Art Prize is the way even pedestrian works can accomplish one purpose of art, to get people to look at the space around them differently.

Take the horses, above, which are in the Grand River just outside of the Public (municipal history) Museum and Grand Valley State, right in the middle of downtown. While each horse is supported by a vertical metal bar, they’re otherwise constructed of branches.

The rapids in our city’s name are no longer worthy of the name; instead, a series of small drops step the river down the 18 feet it falls through the city. And many of the fish that draw crowds of fishermen to the banks of downtown year-round are farmed. It’s pretty tame, particularly given how low it is this year with the drought.

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