Mother and son win public grand prize at this year's ArtPrize

Maureen Feighan
The Detroit News

A mother and son duo from Grand Rapids are the public grand prize winners of this year's ArtPrize. 

Christian Reichle and his mom, Monica Pritchard, on Friday won the $50,000 prize for their "Before You Go" audio-based installation at the international art competition in downtown Grand Rapids. The prize was announced during an ArtPrize awards broadcast on WOOD TV8 in Grand Rapids.

"We're very, very grateful for the opportunity to be here, everyone that’s helped us make this happen, make the project happen," said Reichle, a designer. "There’s been a lot of people involved to make it be what it is."

Christian Reichle and his mom Monica Pritchard won the $50,000 public grand prize for their entry "Before You Go," an audio-based installation, at this year's ArtPrize.

"Before You Go" features a vintage phone booth on Grand Rapids' Blue Bridge. Inside, visitors can hear audio excerpts of dozens of interviews Reichle and Pritchard did with members of the public in Grand Rapids and across the country to "spark thought" and explore "topics surrounding life, death and our collective hopes, dreams and regrets," according to their entry.

Pritchard, who buried her face in her son's shoulder when their names were announced, said they received a grant from ArtPrize to make their entry happen but almost gave it back when they weren't sure they could pull it off. But they persevered.

"We pulled through," said Reichle.

"Before You Go" is one more than 850 entries from more than 900 artists at this year's ArtPrize, which returned this year for the first time since 2018. Entries — ranging from painting and photography to large scale installations and metal art — are displayed at more than 140 venues all over Grand Rapids.

"The Seeker & The King" by Richard Luke of Haslett and Tiffany Marie of Lansing was one of the five finalists for the $50,000 public grand prize winner.

Organizers used a new method of voting for winners this year, creating a digital scavenger hunt of sorts. Visitors scanned QR codes at each venues and prizes popped up on phones, monetary and nonmonetary. Entries with the most prizes were used to determine the winner.

ArtPrize Executive Director Craig Searer said the voting system was changed to get more money in the hands of more artists. As of Friday, more than $125,000 had been awarded to roughly 200 artists through the new QR voting system.

"We can’t believe the reaction we’ve received from artists. It’s been unbelievable," said Searer.

Other winners announced Friday included Hwa-Jeen Na of Grand Rapids and Yuge Zhou of Chicago who won the $10,000 jury award for installation for their entry, "Project Unity: Ten Miles of Track in One Day," exploring Chinese emigrants who worked to build the Central Pacific Railroad. Stephen Smith of Grand Rapids won a time-based award for his "Art pod" entry, a mini gallery. And John Paul Goncalves won the two-dimensional jury award for his piece, "Aging Out/18 years old." 

ArtPrize, which returns in 2022, runs until Sunday.