ArtPrize interaction, tokens spark positive, enduring flame

September 28, 2009
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ArtPrize has certainly had the galvanizing impact of focusing on “the conversation” — exactly what its founders, including Rick DeVos, have been so confident the community would produce.

Venues across the city have attracted hordes of interested voting and non-voting spectators as well as active participants. The dozens of private and not-so-private receptions held in the opening days at the various hot-spots have garnered shoulder-to-shoulder turnouts, unlike less crowded recent events on the social calendar.

Some former regulars who haven’t been readily visible in quite some time in the downtown area were among those dotting the sidewalks and gallery spaces, including those dressed in their reception finest waiting for a free Rapid ride to the myriad of artsy locations.

A lasting impression

During the ArtPrize competition, Karen Scarpino wants everyone to see Grand Rapids in the best possible light. So Scarpino, who owns Promotional Impact at 648 Monroe Ave. NW, enlisted People Design to help create a slew of eco-friendly items that will help do just that.

“Our promotional items will generate a buzz about the event and help people remember it fondly,” she said.

The items include an ArtPrize moleskin journal and pen that visitors can use to make notes about the favorite pieces they discover, along with an umbrella, T-shirts, a track jacket, a tote bag, water bottles and even the wristbands people need to gain access to some venues. All the items are either made of recycled content, are BPA-free or are biodegradable. Even the wristbands will biodegrade into sand over time, maybe by the time ArtPrize XX wraps up.

Scarpino is selling the goods, which have been endorsed by ArtPrize, in the former Federal Building on Ionia Avenue NW, the former home of the GR Art Museum. The items are also available at greengiftz.com, the firm’s virtual outlet. Sales proceeds will be reinvested into next year’s ArtPrize.

Craning their necks

If any company knows cranes, it’s got to be the Wolverine Building Group. Wolverine rented the tallest crane ever used in recent recorded construction history when it built River House on Bridge Street for Grooters Development. So it made complete sense last week when Wolverine used a crane to lower the world-renowned Loch Ness Monster into the Grand River near the Blue Bridge.

Nessie, as she’s known to her friends, was created for ArtPrize by Richard App, David Valdisseri, Thomas Birks and Joachim Jensen, a group of artists and designers who call themselves AGG. Nessie is estimated at 100 feet long and 18 feet high, and is made of 20,000 square feet of foam attached to wooden rafts. Nessie also speaks.

“The art-deco style creature will be heard from the riverbanks using frightening sound effects, and the piercing eyes will glow through the darkness, making a chilly ArtPrize entry,” reported Danielle Wells, Wolverine marketing and communications director.

By the way, if the idea of a nighttime trip to the riverbank is too scary, you can also find Nessie on Facebook and Twitter.

Some image building

The Convention and Arena Authority has spent about $5,000 to be a part of ArtPrize, and CAA Executive Director Rich MacKeigan said the benefit DeVos Place will receive from being an official venue and hosting a reception is priceless. Thousands are expected to tour the convention center during the competition because 29 artists have their pieces on display there — some with multiple works. “It’s a cool thing and our staff is excited to be involved,” he said.

Then there is the publicity angle, which likely costs peanuts.

While the Ringling Bros. Circus played Van Andel Arena last week, one of the elephants artistically painted the arena’s bus. “While ArtPrize might be big, we’ve got the biggest artist — probably a couple thousand pounds,” proclaimed MacKeigan.

“Those are the kind of things you have to do to draw attention to ArtPrize and the circus,” said Lew Chamberlin, CAA board member.

Sitting and grinning

ArtPrize is in business and it’s showing up all over. The BOB alone is sponsoring 158 artists. Other companies have been using the citywide art contest as a sales tactic to bring clients in from out of town and show them around the city. Downtown restaurants have been packed with patrons.

You may have noticed metal-meshed seating and tables placed throughout the city and, no, they aren’t submitted pieces. Coalesse, a Steelcase Inc. brand focusing on the live/work balance, is using ArtPrize to showcase its new indoor/outdoor line EMU Ivy. The line debuted at Neocon earlier this summer but is now available for purchase.

Haworth Inc. has found a new meaning of “recycling,” as artists have contacted the company for scrap materials. And, of course, there’s the did-you-see-this effect as pictures hit the Internet via Facebook, Flickr and Twitter in droves.

A Baker’s delight

The Baker College of Muskegon Culinary Institute of Michigan showcased its new three-story facility at a VIP grand opening last week, laying the gauntlet down in terms of being competitive with other culinary learning outlets (GRCC) in the area.

“We hope you enjoy your visit to Michigan’s premier, state-of-the-art culinary training facility,” the evening’s program read. Baker College President Mary Ann Herbst, Musekgon Mayor Steve Warmington and Muskegon Chamber of Commerce president Cindy Larsen were among the dignitaries present for the ribbon- (and cuisine) cutting ceremony.

A veteran’s approach

With jobs being tough to find, Kent County may soon have a key opening. The county is looking to hire a director for its new Veterans Affairs Department that came into being on Jan. 1. Former County Commissioner Harold Mast, who chairs Kent County’s Veterans Committee, said a candidate has to be able to find new funding sources for the fledgling agency and work well with other veterans organizations in the area.

Assistant County Administrator Wayman Britt and his staff have been overseeing the department and answering the calls from vets for assistance. “We want to draw additional funding from national and state sources. We felt it was necessary to move to another level.”

County Deputy Director of Human Resources Gail Glocheski noted that the job could turn into a supervisory position over time as the department grows. In the meantime, the director will be in charge of the volunteers who currently make up the department’s staff. “This position is going to take on a leadership role in the community,” said Glocheski.

The job will pay $46,500 a year to start, with a benefits package worth about $26,000. Britt said he wanted the post filled by the end of this year.

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