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ArtPrize hones tech focus in Studio Series

September 15, 2017
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ArtPrize Studio Series
Mark Mothersbaugh, left, a founding member of the musical group Devo, joined author Adam Lerner on the ArtPrize stage last year. Courtesy ArtPrize

ArtPrize will delve into the role of artists in public and private innovation during two talks at its headquarters this month.

Each year, organizers of the 19-day public art contest host a Studio Series at the ArtPrize HUB/HQ that offers expert critiques and audience input about art and its impact. Mainstays of the series include the Critical Discourse Series, consisting of the Juror’s Shortlist Event and the two-part “Why These Finalists?” talks.

As an outgrowth of its year-old partnership with Switch data center, which powers the ArtPrize HUB/HQ’s STEAM Village, the Studio Series will formalize conversations about technology via a “Smart Cities” panel discussion and a keynote address from the president of the FIRST Robotics Competition.

Kevin Buist, ArtPrize director of exhibitions, said this is the second year Switch has sponsored the STEAM Village, which is an area in the HUB/HQ that allows people to interact with robots, 3-D printing, 3-D pens and virtual reality.

“A STEAM focus for education is science, technology, engineering, arts and math, a rebuttal for STEM,” Buist said. “STEAM adds the arts to the STEM equation and is based on this belief that arts need to be part of activating the hard sciences.”

Having that village on hand led to the idea of integrating more public technology discussions into the Studio Series, he said.

“The televised events, ‘Why These Finalists?’ parts one and two, and the Juror’s Short List, all those are happening in the ArtPrize Studio Series, but now we’ve got more programming that casts a wider net with technology, but always through the art lens,” he said.

The first of the two tech talks, “Smart Cities,” takes place Sept. 28. Panelists include Kristi Overgaard, Switch “chief awesomeness officer”; Patti Poppe, Consumers Energy CEO; Mike Morin, Start Garden co-director; and Brian Seth Hurst, a virtual reality thought leader and innovator.

Buist said ArtPrize has been talking about the idea of “smart cities” since its beginnings as a contest built on mobile technology and a multidisciplinary effort involving a whole city.

“Smart Cities is really about how can you leverage technology and design thinking and use design to make cities work better for people — to make them more efficient and make public and private systems like parking, water and transportation respond better to data and the needs of citizens,” he said.

“At first glance, people might ask, ‘What does that have to do with art and ArtPrize?’ ArtPrize has always been about using technology to help people learn about their city and navigate it. The idea of putting art everywhere and releasing these smartphone apps with GPS capability, it becomes a technology-fueled urban scavenger hunt. So ArtPrize is this big example of how to make a city smarter.”

He said the four panelists will discuss how art, design, technology and innovation are impacting innovation in cities like Grand Rapids and beyond, especially as it relates to artists becoming part of public systems discussions.

“When people are thinking about how artists can be involved in city planning or systems, they think about aesthetics. ‘Oh, artists make things pretty,’” Buist said. “Our whole point is it’s about way more than that, and artists are so vital to communities and are good at revealing hidden boundaries and challenging norms and conventions of thinking. And that’s essential to the systems thinking that’s key to making a city smart.

“Situating that conversation within a conversation about the arts is really good because it forces participants from both sides of that seeming chasm to find connection and similarities and bounce ideas off one another.”

On Oct. 5, FIRST Robotics Competition President Don Bossi will take the studio stage to discuss the role that educators, parents and business leaders have in ensuring students — especially those underrepresented in STEAM — have access to creative, diverse and innovative career prospects.

He also will discuss the convergence of art and science and how FIRST Robotics inspires the next generation of leaders and problem solvers in multiple disciplines.

ArtPrize will feature a FIRST Robotics display as the centerpiece of its educational programming in the STEAM Village this year. Robotics teams from area schools have created robots that ArtPrize visitors will be able to control with tablets — making them move, draw and erase in the staging area.

All seven events in the Studio Series, which are free and open to the public, take place at 7 p.m. in the ArtPrize Studio at 41 Sheldon Blvd. SE in downtown Grand Rapids. Doors close at 6:45 p.m.

Full list of Studio Series events

  • Sept. 22: Founders Brewing Co. Panel — Founders Brewing Co.’s leadership will discuss the evolution of their creative process and how it’s reflected in their beer lineup.
  • Sept. 25: Critical Discourse: Jurors’ Shortlist Event— The ArtPrize Nine jurors for the 2-D, 3-D, time-based and installation categories will reveal and discuss their Top 20 picks.
  • Sept. 26: Start Garden 5x5 Event — The local entrepreneurial development organization’s monthly pitch competition will be held in the ArtPrize Studio this time around.
  • Sept. 27: Prospect New Orleans: American Cities, Artists and Audiences Collaborate — Brooke Anderson, museum director at Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, will share the origins of Prospect New Orleans, the largest triennial of contemporary art in the U.S., for which she served as executive director.
  • Sept. 28: Smart Cities Panel
  • Oct. 2 and 3: Critical Discourse: Why These Finalists? — Panel of six art experts will discuss the 40 public and juried finalists in a two-night “lively, humorous and irreverent debate.”
  • Oct. 5: FIRST Robotics Keynote

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