Editorial

ArtPrize symbolizes and rewards a design-centric business community with economic gains

June 29, 2018
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The Business Journal this week reports on the domino economic impact of the decision to make ArtPrize a biannual event, but additional reporting reflects the overall economic opportunity of a labor force steeped in design-centric practices. The example became obvious to those outside this region as private businesses discovered ways to embrace the enormous “interrupter” if only initially because the business address was at the epicenter of an event attracting 552,000 people from every state and more than 100 countries.

The Grand Rapids metro area is steeped in the legacy of creative endeavors, from the first furniture craftsmen and apprenticeships to entrepreneurial efforts marking the area as a U.S. “hotbed” of entrepreneurs.

Such was on the mind of Ford City Solutions Vice President John Kwant, who announced last week Ford’s partnership with the city of Grand Rapids to crowdsource community collaboration to find solutions to boost the city’s mobility infrastructure, with the winning ideas receiving $100,000 to run a pilot. Similar programs were launched in Miami and Pittsburgh, making Grand Rapids the smallest metro area involved in the expansive, international Ford project. Kwant said he spent his younger years in the greater Grand Rapids area.

Trevor Pawl, vice president of PlanetM, Michigan Economic Development Corporation’s mobility arm, told the Business Journal that PlanetM was set up to assure the state’s brand as a global epicenter for mobility but also to create an active business development platform to help companies begin to connect with those startups. Key to the decision to include Grand Rapids was its “heritage of design thinking.” Pawl told the Business Journal, “It’s the right makeup of talent and the right makeup of citizen that I think Ford is looking for in this challenge.”

From its very inception, ArtPrize was an example of those perspectives. In its 10-year history, the project that initially left residents scratching their collective heads evolved to a serious and sincere appreciation for arts and ideas, the creativity of a community (most especially businesses immersed in its display) and the transfer of design thinking.

Announcing the event schedule change, ArtPrize Executive Director Jori Bennett commented, “Since its inception in 2009, ArtPrize has been an evolving experiment. Our job is to continue to push the bounds of how we engage the public in conversation about art and why it matters.” She also noted the organization “is now in an exciting position to again be the accelerant for conversation about art and creative expression.”

About that, there is no doubt.

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