Imaginative, inspiring, unprecedented ArtPrize – the artistic endeavor bestowed upon Grand Rapids ten years ago that enriched the city in immeasurable ways – is being replaced. Temporarily. By Project 1.

Project 1: Crossed Lines, presented by ArtPrize, will commission a single artist or small group of artists to create an enormous, community-oriented, citywide public art project this fall. The intent is to enable viewers to slow down and engage in the large-scale immersive display rather than rush with the crowds from one exhibition to the next.

“The artist or artists will present a temporary, focused activation that will respond to the city’s history, community, and sense of place,” stated Kevin Buist, ArtPrize artistic director. The goal is to encourage critical discourse, celebrate artists, transform urban space, and promote cultural understanding, according to Buist.

Debuting September 7 and running for seven weeks, the exhibition includes performances, events, and educational and cultural programming that is free and open to the public.

This fall’s event is the first in a series that will be presented between what will become biennial ArtPrize competitions. This means that the traditional ArtPrize will return for its 11th edition in fall 2020, and the two events will alternate years going forward.

The new exhibition’s theme is Crossed Lines, and it’s intended to explore the way boundaries affect our sense of belonging. The theme served as a guide to site selection, and five artists will present installations at three outdoor sites: Martin Luther King Park, Tanglefoot Artists Studio, and downtown Grand Rapids.

Martin Luther King Park, on the southeast side of the city, is presenting an exhibition of a textile wrap on the exterior of the community lodge and an accessible roof installation that will function as a stage.

Tanglefoot Artists Studio is a former industrial campus that is hosting a series of walkways and platforms to be occupied in various configurations by audiences and collaborating performers. Participation and collaboration are essential to the work.

Downtown is the primary location, featuring a walkable center-city experience with projects by four of the five Project 1 artists and including textiles, a steel sculpture, a second sunken rooftop treatment featuring performances, and a sound and light installation inviting visitor participation.

By design, these locales connect disparate parts of the city, crossing geographic, socioeconomic, and racial boundaries.

A History of ArtPrize
The brainchild of Grand Rapids native and entrepreneur Rick DeVos, the first ArtPrize took place in 2009.

On opening day in 2009, more than 150 venues displayed the entries of 1,262 artists from more than 40 states and a dozen countries. Grand Rapids was not prepared for the massive public response. By the first Sunday, restaurants ran out of food. By the next Sunday, area hotels ran out of rooms, according to the website.

Statistics tell the rest of the success story:

By the tenth year, 2018, 1,260-plus works created by more than 1,400 artists from 41 states and 40 countries were exhibited in over 165 venues. Also, record books logged 500,000 visitors, 1,000 volunteers, 30 staff, and 12 interns.

Over eight years, 2.9 million visitors have cast 3.2 million votes, and artists from around the country and world have received $4.1 million in awards.

The latest tally shows that in addition to artist prizes totaling $500,000, ArtPrize provides additional monetary contributions, including awards/grants to support artists, venues, curators, and educators participating in the event. It also provides learning opportunities for the public and a speaker series that brings art experts to Grand Rapids for free public discussions about art. The Education Days program serves nearly 19,000 preK-12th grade students from 203 schools in 59 school districts across Michigan through customized field trips and learning experiences.

The entire cost and accompanying programming for the Project series will be funded by ArtPrize (established as a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization governed by a board of directors in 2011) with the support of its donors and sponsors.

The statistics can be tallied, but the true value of the ArtPrize endeavor is immeasurable. Judging by this past success, Grand Rapids is likely to benefit in an even grander way from the new Project Series.