Thursday, October 15, 2009

Just Another Day

As usual, I've been busy lately. Too busy to do much here unfortunately.

I do have a couple of posts planned. One thing I'm planning on doing is to start reviewing equipment I buy and either use or don't use. I have a start of one review at the moment and hopefully you will see that soon.

I would like to talk about ArtPrize for a bit. For those of you that don't know, Rick Devos, grandson of one of the founders of Amway, started an art competition. First prize was a cool quarter of a million dollars and the top ten got at least $7,000.

There was a lot of talk about the voting rules. The public got to vote each piece up or down using their cell phones or on-line. A voter had to register in person with a government ID. This was to prevent someone from rigging the voting. When it was first announced, a lot of people, me included, derided it as American Idol for the arts. The local art community was even more vocal. How could the unwashed public be expected to pick a good piece of art? They wanted it changed to a juried art show with artists in charge of picking the winner.

An area of downtown was picked, any building or open area could become a venue for the artists to display their work. The artist paid a fee to participate in the show and then had to find a venue. Starting a few weeks before the competition opened, art started to show up. The most noticeable were the sculptures. Especially the huge table and chairs spanning the top of the walking bridge over the river downtown. You can still see that from the freeway as you drive by.

By the time the show opened, downtown was full of art. The competition turned out to be a big hit, bringing record crowds to downtown and business to downtown Grand Rapids overall. Grand Rapids also got a lot of good press out of the show. Something the area and Michigan overall needed.

I had the bad fortune to pick that time to take vacation out of the area. I only made it downtown during the competition for a few hours. It was a Thursday afternoon and I was surprised how busy things were. As usual, some of the art I liked, some I didn't and some I didn't understand. But it was a good experience.

I really expected one of the performance events or the big sculptures to win the prize. The public surprised a lot of people by picking a painting of ocean waves as the winner. I had seen the piece, but overlooked it. Since it will be in the local art museum for the next 3 months, I'm going to have to go take a second look.

There were some lessons learned. All the winners seemed to be picked from the central downtown area, a few really good pieces seemed to have been overlooked by the public because they were on the outskirts. The shuttle buses didn't run everywhere and there was some griping. But for the first year of the event, I think it went smoother than a lot of people expected. There are already plans to hold the event again next year, and I think it will be even bigger. Thanks to Rick Devos and everyone who worked on this so hard to make this a worthwhile event for the Grand Rapids area.

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