DeVos Place a winner in ArtPrize

July 11, 2009
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The ArtPrize competition scheduled to get underway here this fall could eventually turn into a treasure trove for DeVos Place, the city’s spacious convention center that has plenty of empty nooks, crannies and wall space to fill.

When the Convention and Arena Authority agreed to make DeVos Place an official ArtPrize venue, board members immediately heard from artists across the country in all types of art fields. Many of them said they would donate their work for permanent display in the building if their pieces could be spotlighted there for the competition.

“We have lots of artists that are looking to get in,” said Rich MacKeigan, SMG regional general manager and CAA executive director.

“There is lots of potential for us if we can stay on top of it,” added Eddie Tadlock, assistant general manager of DeVos Place.

The potential Tadlock referred to was possibly filling the convention center with some of the top art pieces that emerge from ArtPrize this year and in coming years — and at a relatively inexpensive price tag.

“It would be awfully cool to have 18 pieces of art in the building after 18 years,” said MacKeigan.

The CAA Operations Committee has been dealing with putting the right art in the proper locations of DeVos Place for the better part of two years now and having to do so without a budget to buy pieces. So hooking up with the ArtPrize artists could be good for them, the building and the committee.

MacKeigan suggested that two areas in the convention center that might work for ArtPrize are the rehearsal space near the DeVos Performance Hall in the Monroe Meeting Room area and a spot at the northern end of the Grand Gallery.

Still, with DeVos Place being a public building, CAA Operations Committee Chairman Lew Chamberlin cautioned the panel that they had to be sensitive to the type of art that would be displayed there.

“Having an art professional and the people who run the building should suffice,” said Milt Rowher, of who was qualified to make a decision on what goes where.

The committee has recently shifted its attention from finding art for the convention center to dressing up the enclosed walkway from the hotels to DeVos Place with some type of art because of the complaints they’ve received from visitors about the boring walk.

The committee hired Progressive AE to design something that would make an impression on visitors. The firm came up with three ideas for three different sections of the walkway: iconic photos of the region; a display from local artists that would change regularly; and at least one “multi-sensory experience node” that could become a revenue source for the CAA.

MacKeigan said the cost estimate he got for the walkway ranged from $1 million to $1.2 million. He recently told the committee that he would try to cut that cost in half, which would likely mean a similar reduction in the amount of space that would be filled.

“I would like to see ways to value all those things down,” said Chamberlin.

As for the pieces that will likely be submitted to DeVos Place for the ArtPrize competition, Tadlock said he wasn’t concerned the board would get anything controversial. He felt the reputation of the artists he has heard from would keep that from happening.

“A lot of the artists that have been in touch with us are up-and-coming,” said Tadlock. “These are established artists.”

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