The ArtPrize Nine exhibition rethinks the way urban space is transformed, bringing innovative applications of color, light and sound to unconventional spaces.

GRAND RAPIDS (Michigan) JULY 18, 2017 -- ArtPrize, the independently organized art competition recognized as the world’s largest annual public art event, today announced $145,000 in grants to seed a world-class exhibition in 2017, supporting over 40 artists and collaboratives in executing ambitious, large-scale entries at ArtPrize Nine -- slated to take place in Grand Rapids, Michigan from September 20 to October 8, 2017.

In addition to $30,000 in ArtPrize Pitch Night grants, awarded to artists in six cities across the U.S. this spring, ArtPrize supports artists directly through three granting programs. Featured Public Projects, presented by the Frey Foundation, the Efroymson Family Fund and Downtown Grand Rapids Inc., awarded $85,000 in grants to nine artists and collaboratives including: Erika Nelson (Lucas, KS), Justin Langlois and Hiba Abdullah (Toronto, Ontario), A + J Art + Design (Somerville, MA), AJ Paschka (Grand Rapids, MI), Joshua Lantzy and Jamie Topper (Chicago, IL), CJ Hungerman (Chicago, IL), Tashif Turner aka Sheefy McFly (Detroit, MI), Tanner Wilson (Atlanta, GA), and Tyke Witnes (Huntington Beach, CA). Artist Seed Grants, supported by the Frey Foundation, awarded $50,000 in grants to 25 artists. And an additional $10,000 in grants was awarded to 10 artists through the ArtPrize Artist Matching Grant Challenge, presented by the Michigan Lottery.


Returning for a second year is the ArtPrize Featured Public Projects program, awarding grants to five artists and collaboratives from around the country to install large-scale public art projects at prominent outdoor spaces within the ArtPrize district -- Vandenberg (Calder) Plaza, Ah-Nab-Awen Park, Gillett Bridge and the Grand River.

New for 2017, ArtPrize expanded this program to include ArtPrize Murals -- awarding four artists a $1,000 honorarium and a $500 stipend for materials to create a work of art during the ninth annual event. Rather than utilize traditional walls, the artists will apply their murals to shipping containers, creating unexpected temporary venues and activating centrally-located spaces in downtown Grand Rapids. Additionally, ArtPrize is collaborating with the Urban Institute for Contemporary Arts’ Open Projector Night program to bring projection art to the event this fall through Featured Public Projects -- beaming video installations onto the towering brick wall on the back of the Grand Rapids Police Station. More details on this project will be announced soon.

ArtPrize issued an open call, accepting project ideas from artists around the world. Submissions were vetted by the ArtPrize Exhibitions team then reviewed by the ArtPrize Arts Advisory Council who ultimately selected one project for each space -- awarding a total of $85,000 in grants to nine artists and collaboratives.

Parks & River

Erika Nelson, a Kansas-based artist and educator will install “Superlative Circus Wagon Sideshow Extravaganza” on the Gillett Bridge. Seeking to provide spectacle-based interpretations of the history of public art, Grand Rapids’ continuing role in that history, and stories of the greater Michigan region, Nelson developed “Sideshow Extravaganza.” The artist will install three Circus Wagons along the bridge, each featuring miniature hand-made versions of iconic local monuments -- like Alexander Calder’s “La Grand Vitesse” and Nina Akamu’s “American Horse.”

Lead artists for the Toronto, Ontario-based collective, Broken City Lab, Justin Langlois and Hiba Abdullah explore the transformative potential of art in public spaces through “Everything is Happening Right Here.” The work, to be installed at Vandenberg (Calder) Plaza this fall, highlights the artists’ curiosity for locality, infrastructures and creative practice. LED lights will illuminate the words “Everything is Happening Right Here,” constructed with laser-cut letters affixed to temporary aluminum support structure.

“We believe this project captures the spirit of ArtPrize, responding to the local realities of Grand Rapids while also creating a larger narrative for the hundreds of thousands of visitors to the event,” noted the duo. “As with much of our past work, we have designed this project to operate at these two registers -- locally meaningful and universally accessible -- that create a foundation for a highly effective form of arts-driven public engagement.”

Ann Hirsch and Jeremy Angier, the artists behind Massachusetts-based A + J Art + Design, will install “SOS (Safety Orange Swimmers)” in the Grand River. “SOS” will feature 22 larger-than-life size figures, each cast from a single mold, swimming with the help of what appear to be salvaged black inner tubes repurposed as personal flotation devices. Painted safety orange, the figures’ coloring references the life jackets found strewn near migrants’ landing sights on beaches and landfills along the northern coast of the Mediterranean. Each of the 22 figures represents one million involved in the global refugee crisis.

“Grand Rapids’ immigrant communities have long been a vital part of the city’s cultural landscape and are essential to the story of Grand Rapids’ industrial past,” wrote the collaborative. “From personal experience, we know that Grand Rapids is a world-class city with a diverse, caring and welcoming population, and we are interested in how this whimsical floating artwork can help connect local history with ancient stories of human migration and current global migration trends.”

Grand Rapids-based artist AJ Paschka will create “STARFALL,” a futuristic laser-art installation sponsored by JW Marriott Grand Rapids, as part of its 10th anniversary celebration, and XS® Energy, along the Grand River this fall. Visitors will be invited to the jdek at the JW Marriott where they can speak into a microphone, activating colorful lasers -- making them modulate and dance from the tops of buildings along the river’s edge and onto the water at points north and south of the bridge. Colors, shapes and movement will allow everyone to enjoy.

“The city and the river are the stage, and you become the art director,” said Paschka.

Ah-Nab-Awen Park will feature work by Chicago-based artists, Joshua Lantzy and Jamie Topper. A sonic installation, their work “Land Chimes” will serve as both a visual and auditory expression of the park’s topography, and as an invitation to experience the land in an entirely new way. The artists will create a level plane above the sloping park landscape, with chimes extending from the plane to the earth -- the rising and falling landscape will determine the pitch of the chimes. Visitors will be invited to walk among the chimes, striking them with mallets, translating the changing slope of the park into sound. Each chime will host an LED light shining upward, creating a suspended field of lights above the installation plane.

“This piece is an invitation to play, to experiment with sound, and to peacefully collaborate with others through public art,” noted the duo.

Shipping Container Murals

Atlanta-based artist, Tanner Wilson will turn the corrugated steel shipping container into a breathing work of art with his mural, “Dancing Tigers,” sponsored by X-Rite Pantone. Wilson will paint a dancing tiger on each side of a shipping container on the Blue Bridge -- one side depicting a daytime scene with grasses and flowers, the other a nightscape set underneath the moon and stars. He seeks to instill a sense of strength and courage in those who see the mural.

Chicago-based artist CJ Hungerman will apply his unique style of patterned kinetic color to his piece “Universal Translator” at North Monroe Park. Hungerman uses a multitude of layers, shapes, and colors which explode into moving, electrified, surrealistic landscapes, engaging the viewer with new optic riddles each time the art is explored.

Visual artist, producer, DJ and musician Tashif Turner, aka Sheefy McFly’s mural “Surreality” will seek to spread an energetic sense of subconscious wonder at Calder Plaza. The Detroit-based artist creates each of his murals spontaneously, and though he carries over a few recurring images, he draws on the energy of his surroundings to execute each mural he creates.

Tyke Witnes’ illustrative style is inspired by comic books, graffiti and pop surrealism, and through his mural “Relative Realities” the artist will create two images that represent two different perspectives of the same reality. Through this piece, also located on the Blue Bridge, the artist asks viewers to explore their personal beliefs of reality and the relationships they experience over the course of a lifetime.


For the fourth consecutive year, registered ArtPrize artists sought to be awarded one of 25 Artist Seed Grants presented by the Frey Foundation, valued at $2,000 each. Members of the ArtPrize Art Advisory Council reviewed the applications, seeking ambitious entries from artists who demonstrated both financial need and artistic merit.

The panel awarded Artist Seed Grants to the following 25 artists:


The second annual ArtPrize Artist Matching Grant Challenge, presented by the Michigan Lottery, encouraged artists participating in the ninth annual event to raise funding through a campaign to support their ArtPrize projects. The first ten artists to each raise $1,000 from at least ten unique donors received a $1,000 matching grant -- $10,000 in total -- to execute their project at the event this fall.

The Michigan Lottery seeks to further nurture the vitality of this international event that each year transforms our community — spurring conversation and catalyzing creativity through this Matching Grant Challenge.

Featured Public Projects, Artist Seed Grants, and the ArtPrize Artist Matching Grant Challenge are part of a growing ArtPrize granting program, awarding over $300,000 in 2017 to artists, venues, and educators, bringing surprising, challenging work to the ninth annual event and encouraging the possibility of exploration and discovery. These granting programs also include Pitch Nights, presented by 21c Museum Hotels, Delta Air Lines and underwritten by Experience Grand Rapids; Education Days Grants, presented by PNC Bank; and more.

All grant-winning artists will be in the running for the $500,000 in public vote and juried prizes to be awarded at ArtPrize Nine.

ArtPrize will return to Grand Rapids, Michigan from September 20 to October 8, 2017, featuring 1,349 artist entries hailing from 41 U.S. states and 47 countries, showing at 180 venues across the three-square mile event district.

By Jaenell Woods on