ArtPrize contest to be held every other year

Michael Hodges
The Detroit News

ArtPrize is moving to an every-other-year format.

The city-wide, radically open art competition that takes over central Grand Rapids for 19 days every fall will go on as planned this year, but then won't return till 2020.

Instead, in 2019 the organization will mount what they're calling "Project 1 by ArtPrize."

Visitors examine "Intersections," the Public Vote Grand Prize Winner by artist Anila Quayyum Agha, of Indianapolis, IN, at the Grand Rapids Art Museum in Grand Rapids. The piece was among the hundreds vying for eye-time and cash awards at the annual Artprize festival.

"Instead of officiating a competition," said ArtPrize Artistic Director Kevin Buist, "we'll be facilitating a commission for temporary art."

Essentially, in September and October of odd-numbered years, ArtPrize will commission and underwrite a temporary, city-wide art exhibition created by one or multiple artists.

Buist and Jori Bennett, ArtPrize executive director, call this a way to give artists, venues and the city of Grand Rapids a year to catch their breath in between competitions.

The project years, Buist added, will provide an opportunity for more-ambitious, and possibly more-costly or time-consuming undertakings.

"We actually think this will amplify the ArtPrize brand," Buist said. "This will make it more special and give artists time to be more ambitious."

The ArtPrize venues that host artists, he added, are "thrilled" with the shift.

One of those is the Grand Rapids Art Museum, which is the setting for any number of pieces, often huge, during the competition.

Museum Director and CEO Dana Friis-Hansen said the biennial schedule "will breathe new energy into the event, allowing venues space to continue to create exciting exhibitions on a grand scale."

Thursday's announcement was made at the city's Belknap Park atop "Grand Rapids Project X," an asphalt earthwork created by the American sculptor Robert Morris.

Present were ArtPrize top brass, Grand Rapids Mayor Rosalynn Bliss, and Rick DeVos, the competition's founder and board chairman.

ArtPrize, which runs from Sept. 19 - Oct. 7, awards $500,000 in prizes during each competition. Last year it drew 522,000 visitors.

The shift to every other year doesn't seem to reflect any financial squeeze.

ArtPrize reported in April that it's enjoyed a 7 percent year-over-year increase in corporate fundraising, which now accounts for 60 percent of its budget.

Some 20 high-level donors are committed to multi-year sponsorships, representing a total of $3.2 million through 2020.

Other major sponsors include the Richard and Helen DeVos Foundation, which has supported the competition from the start.

Executive director Bennett sees the shift as a beneficial tweak that will only boost interest.

"Over the 10 years we've learned and evolved," Bennett said. "Project 1 will be an exciting new way to engage the community on art and why it matters." 

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