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From uncertain beginnings eight years ago, ArtPrize has grown into one of Michigan’s premier annual events. The art festival and contest in Grand Rapids is in the middle of its 19-day run and is on track to post a triumphant season.

Fabulous late-summer weather and a terrific line-up of exhibits are keeping the streets of Grand Rapids jammed.

This past weekend, the sidewalks downtown were shoulder to shoulder with visitors moving throughout the city to see works that are placed both indoors and out.

This year’s festival contains the work of 1,400 artists from all over the country competing for $500,000 in prize money.

ArtPrize is the brainchild of Rick DeVos, who in 2009 thought it would be fun to have an art competition in which the winners were chosen largely by the public. The unique idea attracted the attention of artists who might not feel they had a shot in a juried show, and has led to an eclectic and people-pleasing mix of art.

It’s been terrific for the west Michigan city, and has helped solidify Grand Rapids’ standing as a cool place to work and live.

Grand Rapids is attracting a younger, hipper crowd to its redeveloped downtown, and is taking advantage of its cluster of colleges and beautiful riverfront.

They’re getting it right on the west side, and ArtPrize is the perfect example.

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