Arts & Entertainment, Nonprofits, and Travel & Tourism

Public voting lags for ArtPrize 10

Despite the lack of voter turnout, organizers point to other signs of success.

October 19, 2018
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ArtPrize 10
While visitor attendance remained strong at some venues, public voting for ArtPrize 10 slipped significantly. Photo by Johnny Quirin

The public cast fewer votes for ArtPrize 10 than ever before.

There were 253,161 votes cast in ArtPrize 10, which was almost 75,000 fewer votes compared to last year. There were 327,814 public votes cast in last year’s 19-day art competition.

Fewer entries may have contributed to the low number of votes cast, said Jori Bennett, ArtPrize executive director. There were approximately 1,260 entries this year compared to 1,346 entries for ArtPrize Nine, a 6 percent decline. The number of venues — 168 — remained the same.

In 2009, the first year of ArtPrize, there were 334,219 votes cast and 1,262 entries. 

The number of entries overall, which serves as a multiplier for voting, fluctuates year over year,” Bennett said. “With fewer entries this year than last, we anticipated a shift in vote totals. Many of the most highly attended ArtPrize venues — including DeVos Place, the Ford Museum, GRAM, Amway — had more tightly curated shows this year where more space was given to fewer artists. Less entries in these venues contributed to fewer votes overall.”

Elizabeth Payne, Grand Rapids Art Museum’s communications manager, said the museum displayed nine entries (some contained more than one artwork), compared to 16 entries last year. Over the 19-day event, GRAM welcomed 109,135 total visitors, which was roughly 13,000 less than in 2017, when the museum counted 122,269 visitors.

Donald Holloway, curator at the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum, said there were 24 art pieces showcased at the museum, which was lower than last year when the museum hosted 32 entries. He said there were 140,021 visitors, which also represented a decline in attendance year over year.

“Over the years, visitors always ask questions about the voting process,” he said. “In years past, we had an ArtPrize information booth on-site. This year, we did not, but we did not detect an increase in visitor questions about the voting process.”

The most drastic decrease in the number of entries was at DeVos Place, where the downtown convention center hosted only two dozen entries, down from 126 last year. Eddie Tadlock, assistant general manager for SMG, said the number of entries didn’t seem to affect attendance.

He said roughly 230,000 people visited DeVos Place during ArtPrize 10, which compared favorably to last year’s numbers.

I also noticed that people were not running around with their phones out voting like crazy, as was the case in years past,” he said.

Although juried and public voting determines who wins cash prizes totaling $500,000, Bennett said ArtPrize was about more than just voting this year.

“Voting is an important engagement tactic, but it’s not the only tactic,” Bennett said. “What happened this year is a part of a broader story, and voter numbers always fluctuate. From an enormous line to get your arms marbled and huge participation at a yoga event on the Blue Bridge, to record social media engagement — the ways we invited visitors to engage with the event were multifaceted and not focused solely on voting.”

ArtPrize history

Year     Votes cast      Entries

2009      334,219        1,262

2010      465,538        1,713

2011      383,106         1,582   

2012      412,560         1.517      

2013      446,850         1,524

2014      389,714         1,536

2015      422,763         1,550

2016      380,119          1,453

2017      327,814          1,346

2018      253,161          1,263

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