ArtPrize attracted more than 400,000 people this year to enjoy 1,536 pieces of art scattered throughout Grand Rapids. The 19-day event is coming to a close this week as the public and art experts determine winners of a $260,000 and $300,000 prize.
The public vote just narrowed down their favorite top twenty pieces and visitors have a chance to cast their final votes until midnight on October 9. A juried panel of art experts will also determine a separate winner, and both will be announced at the ArtPrize Awards on October 10.
ArtPrize does more than recognize artists; it attracts hundreds of thousands of visitors, boosts economic activity an estimated $22 million, and gives Grand Rapids residents something to be proud of. This is large-scale placemaking that has a dramatic impact.
Although other communities would struggle to host a similar event, elements of ArtPrize can and should be replicated across the state:
Let art and cultural presentations take over public and private spaces. Allowing visitors to freely travel through interesting, attractive, and engaging pieces of art, as they do during ArtPrize, gives people an excuse to visit downtown. They’ll fill the streets, get something to eat, and enjoy the local environment.
ArtPrize gives visitors a chance to vote for their favorite pieces, which eventually awards one winner a $260,000 prize. Anything that empowers residents to make decisions, participate, share ideas, or contribute in some way, will be a more powerful and memorable experience.
Ensuring an event is accessible to all kinds of people is an important consideration. Make sure activities are accessible to people with disabilities, the young and old, and are welcoming to people of all backgrounds and cultures. Consider geography, venue, theme, cost, food choices, and language options to ensure the event is welcoming to everyone who may attend. The more people in attendance, the stronger the impact on the community.
ArtPrize has a strong social and traditional media presence to promote the event and recognize participating artists. Visitors also have the ability to download an app to their smart phone to vote for their favorite pieces, learn about Grand Rapids, and get updates on the competition. In 2014, it’s crucial for communities to share information, promote events, and allow for visitor engagement through technology.
Go with the flow
Grand Rapids has been full of activity since ArtPrize started. Instead of being strict about what people could and couldn’t do, the city seemed to go with the flow. Children played in city fountains; street performers entertained passerbys; artists not formally part of ArtPrize shared their work in public spaces. Yes, police helped patrol busy intersections, but the city didn’t feel over-controlled. People were free to do what was fun, comfortable, and safe.
Art will be on display in Grand Rapids through October 12. I encourage you to explore the event and brainstorm how you could incorporate elements of ArtPrize through events in your own community. Even if you miss ArtPrize this year, Grand Rapids has a lot to offer and the city would be happy to host your visit any time of year!