Friday, October 1, 2010

Grand Rapids Art Prize is Grrrrrrrrrrrrreat!

Tony the tiger couldn't have said it better! An unassuming, mid-sized city, in the Midwest has turned itself into an Art Gallery Extraordinaire. And what a show it is! Everywhere you walk, thru the entire city of Grand Rapids, Michigan, you will discover a tremendous outpouring of talent and enthusiasm for the Arts. Sculptures, paintings, mixed media, performance art, and some stuff just too esoteric for categorization all abound.

Art Prize (yes you should click on that link, I can wait) is a sheer genius idea come to fruition. In a day where many small, and mid-sized towns and cities are experiencing  a crumbling decline in numbers of residents and quality of life, Grand Rapids is showing that you should never give up on a dream! This is the second year for Art Prize, and it looks to be a long term party for the city. Here is a happenstance that provides for a lot of wins, for everyone involved (no mean feat these days).

Sure it got off the ground with help from a Mover And Shaker, but what grand vision doesn't? As the web site says: "On a brisk, clear morning in April 2009, Rick DeVos announced a new “social experiment.” He was going to give away the world’s largest art prize based solely on a public vote. DeVos said the event would take over downtown Grand Rapids, Michigan that fall. As it turned out, that was just the beginning." Social Experiment? Wha? Huh? Why that almost sounds like a commie! *chuckle* But it's true, and an experiment that successfully demonstrates that people of all walks, ages, faiths (or lack of faiths), race, creed, colors, sexual identity, or whatever... well simply put all of us is Human, and surprise (!) you enjoy Art too!

That's the unique aspect of this particular showing. The really Grand Prize of a cool quarter million bucks is decided on not by an esteemed panel of judges and critics, but rather by ordinary folks like you and me. Aye yup, the public votes (via Interwebby, or SMS, or even at a station - in person) and whomever collects the most votes wins. I love the simplicity of it! And yes I admire that it us that chooses what we want!

Entries are from all over the world, and the Event is up and running! You can go the website and register (free!), then look at the various works and vote. But in order to Vote you do have to go to Grand Rapids and complete the Registration process. Last year they had 200,000 visitors come to town and do just that. And when we were there, each and every venue welcomed us warmly and not one soul seemed put out by the influx of Art, Artists, or Visitors. 

So you see, and hear, some of the best Art ever, and yes of course there's some clunkers and some I Don't Get It pieces. But that's the real beauty of such a large event as this, you can take in some wonderful Art, and simply ignore what you don't care for. There was one piece in particular that I voted a thumbs down for, because of it's particular political voice, that I don't like. But much more often I voted a thumbs up for some artists whose work captivated me. You know, the stuff that you want to stand in front of for awhile, just to soak in it's beauty.

So, yes last Monday was a long day with the 2hr drive each way, but the journey was so delightful, and of course the small group of us that went down (from our Church) either were, or became, good friends, that day. That's one (of many) reasons I love our little Church, it invests itself in our community, in a lot of ways. And taking this trip, with these people, to the Largest Art Show in the World, well, that was a treat not be forgotten soon. And the larger community of Grand Rapids that is bold enough to host a "Social Experiment", is getting paid back handsomely, and deservedly so! I do hope that you will take part in this Social Experiment, it is worth participating in.

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