ArtPrize creates a buzz

May 31, 2009
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Will ArtPrize “reboot the conversation between artists and audiences”? It hopes so.

ArtPrize is a worldwide, open art competition that will be hosted in Grand Rapids this fall and boasts the largest monetary prize for art in the world. It is open to all artists and any medium; venues are scattered around a marked portion of the city of Grand Rapids.

As ArtPrize gets closer to its launch, conversation is already bubbling. Those who register will be allowed to vote on artists’ works placed throughout the city. While this format does connect the artist to the audience in an updated setting, some artists feel it may take the spotlight off the art and put it on marketing campaigns.

Since this is the inaugural year for the competition, many are not sure what to expect — including its creators, Rick DeVos and Bill Holsinger-Robinson, who directs the social media/infrastructure. As the competition’s Web site — www.artprize.org — says: “We admit … it's an experiment. A fun experiment. Come and see.”

Holsinger-Robinson, who also is president of Pomegranate Studios, which develops and launches a variety of Web-enhanced businesses for a group of investors — its first project is ArtPrize — agrees there is some validity to artists’ concerns.

“Although we believe that really great art will ultimately win, we really hope the stuff that wins is the stuff that creates the most conversation,” he said. “It’s a lot about how you market and campaign, and a lot about ripping down traditional barriers that exist between the artist and the public.”

He added that technique will most likely play a supporting role to meaning. Collaboration could also play a strong role along with putting a piece in context.

“I know some artists on the lakeshore that do a lot of work. One of them was thinking about participating, but said, ‘I wouldn’t submit my work.’ I said, ‘Yeah, but you’ve got a bunch of other artists that you know of that are all on the same theme. Why don’t you bring them all together as a collective, as one piece. Then you can start to actually promote it as an environmental topic. The art itself is communicating about a subject broader than the actual pieces.

“It’s that level of thinking, I think, that will probably drive the winner.”

Due to the flexibility in what and how artists can display, Holsinger-Robinson said ArtPrize will appeal most to those who have the power to mold the contest to their imaginations.

“What we really tried to do with ArtPrize is create the base framework so people can make the competition itself whatever kind of event they want to,” he said.

“From the venues’ perspective, you can engage with the artist or collective of artists any way that you want. You can be a space for them to show their art or you can get wholly involved in having artists’ talks or events around the art that you’re showcasing.”

The censorship level of the content of the art will be determined between the venue and the artist. Holsinger-Robinson said it really depends on how that venue or company wants to be viewed.

Already, ArtPrize has garnered attention from artists both locally and internationally.

“There’s been a lot of really great feedback from local, national and international artists about this public vote piece,” he said. “We’ve got some really amazing creative artists from all around the world that are submitting work right now.”

Voting and viewing for ArtPrize will run from Sept. 23 to Oct. 10. For more information, refer to the ArtPrize Web site

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