Arts & Entertainment and Sustainability

ArtPrize launches its first sustainability initiatives

Transportation and waste are the top two priorities.

September 26, 2014
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Sustainable artprize
A crowd examines an ArtPrize entry along the Grand River downtown. Photo by Michael Buck

ArtPrize kicked off its sixth year last week, and this year the annual open art competition, which will draw hundreds of thousands of attendees to downtown Grand Rapids over 19 days, has launched its first environmental sustainability initiatives.

ArtPrize is focusing on two key areas: alternative transportation and waste diversion.

Encouraging the use of alternative transportation — including walking, biking and taking public transit — has been part of ArtPrize’s efforts since the competition first started, but this year the organization has enhanced those efforts with additional services to support bicyclists.

ArtPrize will have a bicycle valet service available outside of the ArtPrize Hub and the Ledyard Building during ArtPrize’s evening and weekend hours, and a bike corral is being added in the same vicinity to give bikers additional options for where to lock up their bikes.

Amelea Pegman, director of community relations for ArtPrize, said cyclists are sometimes reluctant to ride their bikes downtown out of fear they might be stolen, even locked up. She hopes the additional amenities for bikers will help encourage more people to ride their bikes downtown.

Volunteers will be on hand to tag the bikes and watch over the area.

“It’s a simple thing around creating predictable experiences for people who want to bike downtown but wouldn’t be sure where to park their bike or would be scared about someone stealing it,” she said.

Pegman said ArtPrize is partnering with Downtown Grand Rapids Inc. and Grand Rapids Bike Coalition on its biking initiatives.

Pegman also encourages attendees to take advantage of ArtPrize’s continued partnership with The Rapid and enjoy unlimited rides on Rapid buses, including the new Silver Line and the DASH transit system, for $5 per couple. Two wristbands can be purchased for $5 from the ArtPrize HUB, any Exhibition Center, or one of several area Meijer stores and are good for the 19-day competition.

ArtPrize also will launch its first zero waste zone this year, which will be located in the Rosa Parks Circle area where food trucks will be parked throughout the event.

“When people are visiting our food trucks at Rosa Parks Circle, there will not be trash receptacles available,” Pegman said. Instead, the area will have recycling and composting bins. All of the food truck operators have agreed to use only materials that can be composted.

ArtPrize will also work to cut down on single-use water bottles this year.

“The water share program is really interesting, probably the simplest program we have ever created here at ArtPrize,” Pegman said. “We have about 20 different venues around the district that have promised to share their tap water with visitors. They will have a water droplet logo on their door or near their entrance so people know they can go fill up their water bottles there. It’s a really simple thing, but it’s an important one.”

Attendees can purchase a sticker with the water share logo for their reusable water bottles at the ArtPrize Hub, and, according to Pegman, the money from the sticker sales will be used for future sustainability efforts by the organization. All ArtPrize volunteers are being given stainless steel reusable water bottles this year, as well.

“We can change behavior around single-use water bottles, which is certainly something people in events management talk about when it comes to an impact,” Pegman said. “Hopefully, we can grow that program.”

ArtPrize plans to increase its sustainability efforts in the coming years, and will be assessing its current sustainability throughout this year’s competition. Pegman said the organization hopes to create benchmarks that it can then utilize to create sustainability goals in the future.

“I think next year we will be in a better place to say ‘what can we cut back by 20 percent, or increase, or what are some different things we can do,’” she said.

Pegman said ArtPrize worked with the West Michigan Sustainable Business Forum, city of Grand Rapids Office of Energy and Sustainability, Grand Valley State University Sustainable Community Development Initiative, West Michigan Environmental Action Council and the Grand Rapids Community Sustainability Partnership to craft its initial sustainability programs.

“The WMSBF, they really helped us kick off wide thinking around this and really were the catalyst for meeting a lot of the people who are working in this space and can help us come at it from the right angle,” Pegman said.

She acknowledged ArtPrize is not an expert in sustainability.

“We want to present ourselves as knowledgeable supporters,” she said. “We are taking this year to throw some things out there and see how the public responds and see where there is more need for support and how we can build that into our programming every year.”

She said ArtPrize is interested in partnering with other organizations focused on sustainability that have gathered momentum in their areas of expertise and developing its future initiatives in collaboration with those organizations.

“There is a lot of support, inspiration and expertise around sustainability here and (we want to) make sure we are tapping into that,” she said.

For more information on ArtPrize’s sustainability initiatives visit the website.

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