ArtPrize: Open Framework or Open Season?

ArtPrize is winding down to the vote of the 10. But as we all know, it’s also a social experiment. That part of the premise has moved to the forefront in this second week of this radically open framework.

Last Thursday, at a public ArtPrize event, Deb Rockman, a working professional artist, shared a concern with the founder of ArtPrize, Rick DeVos, about the impact of ArtPrize on Grand Rapids within the professional Art world. Mr. DeVos was reasonable and polite in his response as was the rest of the panel (at 12:25):

Following this public forum, Ms. Rockman was interviewed by Wood TV–you can see the report here:

It all seems reasonable. You may not agree but you can say it was civil: ideas and ideals upfront, personalities set aside. Since then, there have been 220+ comments on the WOOD-TV site. 93 of them have been from one person who calls himself MofPointillism. MofPointillism has also been sending negative posts to Deb Rockman’s Facebook page as well. This news report has also lead to others sending Ms. Rockman unkind, personal emails to both her personal and Kendall email addresses. It has reach a point where the admin of KCAD are truly concerned.

You may not agree with anything Ms. Rockman has said and that’s OK. But given the class warfare in many online comments, ArtPrize could be called SpitePrize. Hiding behind an online handle while acting in such a manner is shameful to say the least. This is not right. An email from WOOD-TV states that if 4 complaints are lodged they will remove him from the thread. It’s completely agreeable to disagree but this is beyond the pale. If you support a civil discourse please ask for MofPointillism to be removed.

Also, please pass this along: ArtPrize, an open framework is not an open season to abuse or threaten those with whom you disagree. Support a civil discourse.

Originally posted at:

ArtPrize v. Festival: Is there a difference?

Festival of the Arts

Last night while walking through The Old Federal Building, Festival of the Arts came up in conversation. For those not from River City, it’s our annual 3 day event featuring the best local Art, Music, Film and food in the West Michigan 7 county region. The first Festival began in 1969, the year we installed Le Grande Vitesse. The icon at left was created by Calder for that event. A line has been drawn from 1969 to now. After this first week of ArtPrize is there an intersection of intent?

From the Festival website:

Always held the first full weekend in June in downtown Grand Rapids, Festival of the Arts is a community celebration featuring arts, entertainment, food and fun activities for the entire family. All performances, exhibits and activities are free, thanks to generous donations by local organizations, companies and individuals.

Now ArtPrize:

At ArtPrize, any artist—from established to emerging—has the chance to show work. Any visitor can vote. The vote will decide who wins the largest art prize in the world. We also took the unusual step to allow people in the city to open a venue and choose the artists to show in their space. There is not one official curator or jury for the competition.

On the face of they sound very different. But are they?

This past week, crowds in the 10’s of thousands walked biked, bussed and trollied throughout the 3 square mile ArtPrize district to look at art, eat food, take in the day. This past June, 10’s of Thousands of people walked around downtown to look at art, Listen to music, eat food, take in the day.

ArtPrize has a $250K people’s choice award. Festival’s is only $500. Both events had over a thousand entries. Both get people talking about Art.

The selection process of Festival is more rigorous on the one hand with only a third of its entries being chosen for the exhibit. Although very local in flavor, the overall quality offers a decent sense of the ‘best of the region’ by those people who love to make work be they are paid or not.

What I saw this past week in ArtPrize, was that the bad are very bad and the good are very good. Of the very good works created elsewhere, they help expand the local sense of what is Art. I also saw that many local artists can hold their own against national work.The sad part is much of it is rarely seen locally, except in the classic gallery setting. Will the ArtPrize public continue to step out for that after next week? They say it is part of their mission to promote an ongoing dialogue about Art. We shall see.

When I was a boy, my family would go to Festival and I would always go to the Visual Arts and Film competitions first. I spent hours walking the halls of art and especially watching short films. Often returning many times; amazed that someone I might know could make a movie and show it to other people. Now as an adult, I work as a creative professional, I write, I support the creative endeavors of my wife and two boys. I can draw a line from Festival to now. Will my sons be able to say that about ArtPrize? We shall see.

A lot of the local Art professionals like to grumble about the caliber of work in Festival. Same goes for ArtPrize. I don’t disagree. I have real issues with both but I still go, family in tow and find value in both. If you are going to live here and make here, then step up and own Festival, own ArtPrize, own this town. Don’t sing public virtues of ArtPrize and grumble in the comfort of friends. If you don’t like something point it out, offer a solution. Also make sure to give praise when it’s due.

The general public often remarks they don’t always understand Modern Art. Or they may say ‘I could do that.’ And that classic: ‘Art is in the eye of the beholder.’ Not good enough. There are some great works out there but you please, do your homework. Crack a book, rent a video, google an artist, attend some of the great lectures that UICA, ActiveSite and other venues are hosting this week and next. Own your vote by being informed.

Tomorrow night, Friday 10/2, UICA is hosting a discussion on the ArtPrize Top 10. 7-9 PM. Come out and step up.

ArtPrize and Innovation: does Art need either one?

ArtPrize is upon us here in River City. For lo these many months, a topical condition has developed that I have come to call the ‘Dilemma of ArtPrize.’

It could be best described with these remarks: ‘Why are they doing it and what is it really for?” or “Hey ArtPrize: I really like what you are doing but you should do it this way” and of course “ArtPrize is great, why do you want it to fail, you must hate our city”.

So why does ArtPrize exist? Is it just ‘a radically open art competition, giving away the world’s largest art prize’? Is it only about viewing and voting for and against visual art in some neo-populist fashion? Is there more to it? What is the audacious, outrageous solution of ArtPrize?

Read on: ArtPrize and Innovation: does Art need either one?