Last Monday, March 10 marked a beginning – a kickoff of sorts – of the official ArtPrize Season, because that’s when ArtPrize Venue Registration officially launched.  And in our first week, more than 50 venues have already signed up for ArtPrize 2014!

Venues are a primary, critical, crucial part of the ArtPrize puzzle and we’re always looking for ways to add value to the ArtPrize venue experience.

For example, with Avenue for the Arts' Art.Downtown event and ArtPrize Venue Registration on the horizon, UICA, Avenue for the Arts and ArtPrize identified the need for programming that enables people to put on excellent art exhibitions, from concept to production.

Together, we recently organized a daylong curating workshop at the UICA to a capacity crowd of both professional and aspiring curators, including many current and future ArtPrize venues. The collaboration was not just successful, but quite inspiring for all participants, so look for more of these workshops in the future.  Heather Duffy, ArtPrize Exhibitions Manager will be sharing all new opportunites for Venues and Artists, so check out Heather's blog regularly. 


When you organize a big show like ArtPrize, there is something you hear often from people: “So, what do you do the rest of the year?” It’s a good question, and I usually say:

“We look back and we learn, then we look forward and we plan.”

Those are both vital components of any successful company and it keeps us very, very busy in the so-called “off” season.

I guess what really revealed itself to me personally during my very first ArtPrize in 2013 was that ArtPrize should be a place where Artists are celebrated, Audiences are challenged and Curiosity is rewarded.

Without artists – in their thousands inspired by the great, grand canvas of Grand Rapids and the vast, unencumbered, wide-open bursting-with-potential-possibility of it all – without artists – there would simply be no ArtPrize.

Artists were the first ones who we asked to take the leap with us, and it’s their creative appetite for risk and unpredictability that makes ArtPrize fresh and unfamiliar each year.

Artists are our honored guests and it’s our job to create an ArtPrize experience that –putting aside for a moment the possibility of winning the largest cash prize of any art contest on the planet – our job is to create an ArtPrize that offers artists support, opportunity, community and Grand Rapids hospitality. In addition to the chance of winning an award, artists come to ArtPrize for things like:

• Link Sessions – Brand new in 2013, this 1:1 meetings program yielded over 150 meetings between AP artists and arts professionals for portfolio review, professional development and networking purposes. Overwhelmingly positive feedback in this program means we’ll be doubling down on it in 2014, attracting more artists, more art professionals and expanding the number of sessions and educational moments for artists.

• Art Sales – new functionality introduced in 2013 in artist profiles at helped artists sell their work. This new functionality increased sales by an estimated 25% over the previous year and, according to our surveys, around 20% of artists at ArtPrize 2013 sold hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of work.

• We throw a big party to welcome all artists each year when ArtPrize launches, and a brand new in 2013 – an exclusive ArtFan meet ‘n’ greet party at the GRAM honored our Top 10 artists.

• Artist Hosting - Thanks to the warmth and generosity of our community, artists found a pillow for their heads for hundreds of nights before and during ArtPrize, hundreds of rides and directions were given, and countless tips on where to eat and drink were enthusiastically dispensed. Friendships were forged between out-of-town artists and their Grand Rapids hosts that will last a lifetime.

•ArtPrize ClubHouse -  In 2013, we launched a hospitality hotspot called the ClubHouse where artists, ArtClub members, sponsors, the media and venue operators could meet and relax over morning coffee or an evening drink, get to know each other and build relationships forged during ArtPrize.

•Artist Resources - And, each step of the way, ArtPrize offers valuable informational resources including advice on freighting, shipping and insurance providers, and – this is a reflection of the generosity of Grand Rapids through so many businesses in town – store owners, suppliers, contractors – that have donated wood, cement, paint and other materials, heavy equipment, space – whatever it takes to make sure artists can put their best foot forward. For this recent transplant to the region, it is a marvel to witness, and yet so much a part of what the city of Grand Rapids is all about.

And we’re just getting started. Right around the launch of Artist Registration on April 21 we’ll be making some more anouncements around some new artists programs currently in development that we couldn’t be more excited to share, so stay tuned!


ArtPrize should also be a place where spectators are challenged and curiosity is rewarded, but how should we manifest these ideals in ArtPrize programming?

• Art Education - Education is a top priority for us. In 2013, our Education Days programming, generously sponsored by PNC Bank – made a difference in the lives of over 10,000 K-12 students from over 150 schools statewide. Through this wildly popular program, ArtPrize provides needed transportation grants to schools and provides grants to organizations that create rich, high quality programs for kids at ArtPrize. In 2013, for the second year, ArtPrize reconvened its popular Chair Camp; developed a youth advisory committee to get the younger generation’s take on how to make the program better, and developed teacher packets and multi-lingual materials to help spread the word.

• World-Class Exhibitions: ArtPrize Venues: they included prestigious cultural and educational institutions, restaurants, bars, coffee shops, places of worship, public parks, bridges, the river, hotels, shops, Laundromats and even an auto body shop – ArtPrize is a place where hundreds of thousands of people, guided along the way by app-based smartphone tools – can discover or rediscover a city anew – around each corner or over the next bridge. In this way, ArtPrize is an urban adventure – as much about discovering a city as discovering art.

• ArtPrize Volunteers - The ArtPrize Volunteer program depends on the more than 800 volunteers who willingly and cheerfully dedicate 13,000+ hours of hard work to make ArtPrize a welcoming place for visitors and residents alike.

• The City of Grand Rapids - City government and public service organizations play a critical role in the success of ArtPrize. From clean streets to public safety, parks and transportation.  One example of these partnerships is in The Rapid, Grand Rapids' public transit system, which saw a record 158,000 ArtPrize riders in 2013 – a 50% increase over the year before.

And so, ArtPrize and the sum of its parts – Artists, Venues, Sponsors, Members, Volunteers and partners – truly represent an epic collaboration that rewards the curiosity of spectators far and wide.  

Here's to the year to come!   

By Christian Gaines on