This year, Grand Rapids is celebrating the fifth year of their revolutionary art competition, ArtPrize. Since the fall of 2009, ArtPrize has taken over downtown Grand Rapids and attracted hundreds of thousands of visitors from all over the world to the West Michigan city. The premise: any business within the ArtPrize district downtown can become a venue for the competition, visitors vote for the best pieces, and artists are awarded large cash prizes. The result: undoubtedly, record economic activity in the downtown districts, and increased conversations about art, architecture, and public space.
With the fifth annual ArtPrize wrapping up on Sunday, October 6th, organizers are reflecting on the evolution the competition has taken. Far from a simple art competition, ArtPrize now engages all of downtown and invites participation from all over the world. This year’s planned events featured artist talks, conversations about art’s role in city revitalization, and many independent events hosted by local organizations and businesses; juried prizes even included one for “Best Use of Urban Space.” Among the unplanned events was the controversy surrounding an installation on the City’s famous sculpture, “La Grande Vitesse,” by artist Alexander Calder.
Artist David Dodde’s entry into this year’s ArtPrize was “Fleurs et rivière,” the addition of large floral magnetic decals to the symbolic Calder structure. “La Grande Vitesse” has been a part of the urban design of downtown Grand Rapids for thirty years, and this reworking of the piece won itself as many critics as fans, with comments ranging from “weird” or “ill-conceived” to referencing the entry as a “well-done” and “site-specific” piece. Whether you’re a fan of Dodde’s work or have trouble fitting his entry into your definition of “art,” the addition “Fleurs et rivière” has made to ArtPrize’s larger conversation about art and public space is undeniable.
What do you think the role art plays in urban spaces is today? How do you see that role shifting in the future?
Credits: Data and images linked to sources. Image of Downtown Grand Rapids by author.