ArtPrize winners announced in Grand Rapids

Michael H. Hodges
Detroit News Fine Arts Writer

Two out-of-state artists walked away with $200,000 apiece in the ArtPrize Eight awards announced Friday night in Grand Rapids.

No Metro Detroiters took home any awards this year.

“Wounded Warrior Dogs” a series of wood carvings by artist James Mellick, was the public-vote winner at ArtPrize.

ArtPrize picks two sets of winners — one by popular vote cast by visitors, the other by a small jury of experts.

In the public vote, “Wounded Warrior Dogs,” a group of carved wooden canines, most missing a leg or two, took top honors. The artist was James Mellick of Milford, Ohio.

Some 37,433 visitors cast 380,119 votes in two rounds of balloting over the 19-day festival, choosing among work by 1,453 artists. Some 44 countries were represented.

The juried Grand Prize went to Stacey Kirby’s “The Bureau of Personal Belonging.”

The three-part installation draws visitors into what feels like a 1960s-era bureaucratic office staffed by the artist and other performers. Guests are asked pointed, politically charged questions about gender and sexual identity to determine if they’re “valid” members of the community.

Asked what he would do with his $200,000, Mellick said, “I know 10 percent will go to a veterans’ organization that deals with wounded warriors. I promised to tithe some of this money for the cause the piece speaks about.”

Kirby said she’d be giving 10 percent to Equality NC, an organization that fights for LGBT rights in North Carolina.

She added, “And I’m going to keep my job at the North Carolina Museum of Art. But I’ll contribute the balance to myself and the future expansion of my work, which doesn’t generate a lot of income.”

“The Bureau of Personal Belonging” by Stacey Kirby was the juried winner. Kirby will take home $200,000 in prize money.

Eight smaller prizes of $12,500 apiece were awarded to both public and juried winners in four categories — two-dimensional work, three-dimensional, time-based and installation.

Only two Michigan artists, both from Grand Rapids, took any of these lesser prizes, both of which were awarded by jury.

Isaac Aoki won for “les bêtes” in the 3-D category, and “This Space is Not Abandoned” by 912 CollABORATIVE, took the prize for installation.

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Twitter: @mhodgesartguy