Art Prize

My Best Tips for Attending the World's Largest Art Competition



I travel for art and I spend a lot of my weekends on the road visiting unique cultural attractions and destinations in Indiana and beyond. With only a 4.5 hour drive away, Grand Rapids, Michigan is certainly at the top of my list for a cultural field trip particularly since they are host to one of the most unique events in the Midwest - ArtPrize. I've been making my annual trek to Grand Rapids for the past four years and it is an intense "must-do" for anyone interested in visual art.

A favorite find from ArtPrize
  • A favorite find from ArtPrize

What is ArtPrize?
Now in its fifth year, ArtPrize is the world's largest art competition that will take place September 18-October 6, 2013 and includes:  

   ·1,500+ artists representing 56 countries and 45 states.

   ·162 venues showcasing entries within three-square miles of downtown Grand Rapids.  

   ·$560,000 in prize money given to artists, $360,000 is awarded by public vote, $200,000 awarded by a juror of art experts.

Why you should go:
If the above stats are not impressive enough, what is incredibly cool is that that for 19 straight days, the entire city of Grand Rapids is living, breathing and talking about art.  Art is everywhere - in public spaces, office buildings, parks, coffee shops, museums and restaurants. In addition, ArtPrize is a well-orchestrated logistical machine from shuttles, to maps, to apps, to lectures and art experiences.  ArtPrize is cultural tourism at its best.   

Top Tips:
While ArtPrize doesn't take place until September, its increasing popularity and national buzz makes it no longer a best kept secret.  As you are planning your upcoming vacations, ArtPrize is definitely worth adding to the list, but here are a few pointers based on my experience.

   ·Book your hotel well in advance and stay in downtown Grand Rapids.  Grand Rapids is incredibly walkable and ArtPrize is much more enjoyable when you can ditch the car and explore without having to worry about a commute to the suburbs after a long day. Hotels during ArtPrize, especially the downtown ones, sell out fast. If you are remotely interested in going, book a hotel now - you can always cancel if you change your mind. (I booked my hotel in April). 

   ·Go mid-week if you can.  The weekends are generally packed with visitors and you can potentially get stuck waiting in long lines at the more popular venues. Go Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday to avoid the crowds and traffic.

   ·Stay a minimum of 2-3 days.  With 150+ venues and over 3 square miles, it's impossible to see everything but you can see a lot in 2-3 days. Grand Rapids also has lots of amazing independent restaurants, microbreweries, shops and amenities beyond ArtPrize so there is no shortage of things to do.

   ·I recommend going the first 10 days of ArtPrize so you can participate in the public voting using an app on your phone.  Over $360,000+ in prize money is awarded to artists by public vote and you can help directly influence the winners - how cool is that?

What Not to Miss:
   ·The initial 2013 ArtPrize Venue list was just made public and while I encourage exploration, there are certain venues not to miss because of the history of having fantastic art.  A few of my favorite must-see venues include: Site:Lab, Grand Rapids Art Museum, Urban Institute of Contemporary Art and Frederik Meijer Gardens and Sculpture Park. New this year the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis is teaming up with ArtPrize to curate a public installation on a pedestrian bridge downtown Grand Rapids.

   ·Check out and support your local artists.  A big congrats to Quincy Owens and Luke Crawley, Artur Liou, and Tasha Lewis who are just a few of the great artists representing Indiana at ArtPrize this year. 

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