ArtPrize leads to Art Fair debut

September 15, 2010
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After just one performance, ArtPrize has spun a spinoff event. Art Fair will be held in the Monroe meeting rooms of DeVos Place Sept. 24-26, the first weekend of the 16-day competition that begins Sept. 22.

About 25 of the artists who are registered for the competition will sell their works to the general public during Art Fair; each is renting space in the convention center for the weekend. The idea for Art Fair emerged from discussions ArtPrize officials held with the artists and venue operators after last year’s inaugural event.

“The artists were saying that it’s great we can be involved with the competition, but they also said a lot of people inquired with them about wanting to buy reprints of paintings, note cards and posters, and there really wasn’t a venue available to afford the artists that opportunity,” said Eddie Tadlock, assistant general manager at SMG, which manages DeVos Place.

“So as a result of that, we partnered with the Amway Grand Plaza Hotel and decided to do something. And we have the space to do it,” he said. “There isn’t a commission. We just want to make it an event within the event. So when people see something that they like, maybe they can’t buy the piece but they can buy a reproduction.”

The hours for Art Fair are 10 a.m.-8 p.m. Friday, 9 a.m.-10 p.m. Saturday, and 11 a.m.-6 p.m. Sunday.

DeVos Place again will serve as a venue for ArtPrize, and this year 53 artists will have pieces on display there, which is almost double the 29 the building hosted last year. Tadlock said one reason for the increase is almost 500 more artists have registered for this year’s event —1,713 are on board this year — and SMG felt it should host more. Another reason is the convention center is a very welcoming place for art pieces, especially the larger ones.

“We’re kind of in a unique situation where a lot of our space is like gallery space. And for those artists that do really large pieces, those venues are far and few between. I mean, you’ve got the museums and that is pretty much it,” said Tadlock.

“Secondly, we’ve got the space. There was some trepidation. We didn’t want too much and didn’t want to get too crazy with it. We talked about how it would impact other guests in the building that are here for meetings. So I kind of pushed the issue and decided to ask for forgiveness later. But as it turned out, everyone was very pleased with the number of artists we had and with the caliber of their work,” he said.

The ArtPrize pieces will extend into the south portion of the skywalk that links DeVos Place with the Amway Grand Plaza Hotel. That setting is a first for the building because last year construction at 201 Monroe Ave. NW, an office structure next door to DeVos Place, made that space dusty and difficult to use for that purpose. “I didn’t want to run the risk of putting anything down there (last year),” said Tadlock.

Tadlock felt the skywalk was an excellent art location because the Convention and Arena Authority, which oversees operations at DeVos Place, had discussed putting a $1 million interactive art display along the same corridor and filling the rest of the walkway with works by local artists.

“My thought was, why spend that kind of money when you can get original art and have it up, even on a rotating basis. It’s a perfect place to put something up,” he said.

The CAA and SMG are hosting an opening reception for the ArtPrize artists from 6-8 p.m. Sept. 22. The event is free and open to the public. The John Shea Trio, which has been a solid fixture on the local jazz scene for decades, will play at the reception.

“We thought that the art of jazz would be appropriate with ArtPrize,” said Tadlock.

Retired NFL player, actor, writer, director and painter Bernie Casey will be the featured guest at the reception. Casey played for the 49ers and the Rams in the 1960s and made the Pro Bowl in 1968. He also played J.C. Caroline in “Brian’s Song,” a 1971 made-for-TV movie that chronicled the relationship between two members of the Chicago Bears: Gale Sayers and Brian Piccolo.

Casey has been quoted as saying that he only played football for the money, and had he been able to make that kind of money by painting, he never would have played football. Casey has served on the board of trustees for the highly recognized Savannah (Georgia) College of Art and Design. GE Aviation is sponsoring Casey’s appearance and he will speak Sept. 21 at the firm’s African-American Forum.

“I think of him as a renaissance man,” said Tadlock of Casey. “He was a professional athlete, an actor and an artist. As he would say, ‘I’m not a hobbyist.’ He has a degree in fine arts. He lectures all over on art and culture and those kinds of things. He is truly a renaissance man and has had a pretty successful career.”

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