1,453 artists vie for $500,000 in ArtPrize

Michael H. Hodges
Detroit News Fine Arts Writer

ArtPrize Eight kicks off today all across Grand Rapids and runs through Oct. 9, with 1,453 artists from 44 countries exhibiting at 170 venues, all competing for $500,000 in public-vote and juried prizes.

New this year at what Todd Herring, ArtPrize spokesman calls “the most-attended art event on the planet,” are expanded visitor welcome centers and a music festival on Grand Rapids’ pedestrian Blue Bridge.

And in the bigger-and-bigger department, for the first time, special grants totaling $55,000 will enable installation of four super-sized works at prominent points downtown — including two underwater in the Grand River.

Taking the giant art first, the Featured Public Projects were chosen during an open call in February, with ideas submitted from around the world. ArtPrize officials picked the four proposals in part based on the artists’ previous experience with the challenges of large-scale work.

“As I went over the water, the water went over me” is a wooden construction at the Gillett Bridge that resembles a partly submerged monster in the Grand River. Thanks to shifting LED flood lights, the creature will give the possibly creepy impression that it’s breathing.

Calder Plaza, right downtown, will host “Louis,” a vast installation of weathered steel and bolts. The metallic pile will rub elbows — no small honor — with the plaza’s permanent resident, Alexander Calder’s towering orange “La Grand Vitesse.”

Ah Nab Awen Park, across the river from downtown, will be the site for a tremendous inflatable, illuminated sculpture, “Light Cave,” while “Light Ripples” — an LED construction with 12,000 lights — will be submerged in the Grand River.

Live music will be performed daily throughout the 19-day festival on the city’s old railroad trestle across the Grand River — the Blue Bridge (named for its color).

The day-and-night Blue Bridge Sessions will feature informal, 30-minute pop-up performances — mostly acoustic — all along the bridge.

The only exceptions will be Sept. 30 and Oct. 1, when the Blue Bridge Music Festival takes over, erecting a stage where the Grand Rapids Symphony and some of Michigan’s best bands will perform.

Musicians will compete for the Blue Bridge Songwriters Awards, which doles out $10,000 in prizes to 10 performers, half decided by public vote, half by a jury. Special jukeboxes on the bridge and around town will let visitors listen in on earlier performances.

Finally, looking to make the visitor experience easier, this year ArtPrize has added seven new welcome centers, or HUBs, scattered around town — in addition to the traditional downtown headquarters (HUB/HQ) at 41 Sheldon Blvd.

At each HUB, visitors will be able to pick up event guides and maps, register to vote for their favorite art, and get information on the neighborhood and nearby exhibition venues.

The HUBs also will sell bus passes and ArtPrize commemorative gear and souvenirs.

And returning for the second year will be ArtPrize on Screen, a film festival within the larger art event, starting Wednesday night with the screening of the Sundance Film Festival winner “The Birth of a Nation.”


(313) 222-6021

Twitter: @mhodgesartguy

ArtPrize Eight

Sept. 21 - Oct. 9

All across central Grand Rapids