Kimberly Walker took home a $5,000 grant at last night's event to install an exhibit to raise awareness of sexual assault in the military to the Grand Valley State University (GVSU) Eberhard Center this fall.

CINCINNATI (Ohio) MAY 30, 2018 – ArtPrize, the independently organized art competition recognized as one of the world’s largest annual public art events, in collaboration with 21c Museum Hotel in Cincinnati, last night awarded a $5,000 grant to Kimberly Walker for her Pitch Night Cincinnati-winning entry, “Locked and Loaded.” Walker captured the attention of last night’s five judges, earning the opportunity to realize her vision at the Grand Valley State University (GVSU) Eberhard Center in Grand Rapids, Michigan during ArtPrize 10 – slated to take place from September 19-October 7, 2018. Pitch Night Cincinnati is presented by 21c Museum Hotels and Delta Air Lines, and underwritten by Experience Grand Rapids.

Walker's work was selected from among five artists who presented their ideas for ambitious installation projects at last night’s Pitch Night event. Each artist had five minutes to pitch their idea to a panel of art professionals including: Alice Gray Stites, museum director at 21c Museum Hotels; Rebecca Steele, director of Anytime Department; Maria Seda-Reeder, exhibitions coordinator at Wave Pool Gallery; Annie Dell'Aria, assistant professor of art history at Miami University; and Joel Zwart, curator at Grand Valley State University.

"One of the reasons why we liked this piece is because it had a really powerful message,” said Dell’Aria, reflecting on the judges’ pick. “It will be a part of other works that are inspired by or completed by veterans, which would be an important thing to enter into that conversation.”

As an Army combat veteran, Walker’s 17 years of active service encouraged her to find her voice as an artist and bring awareness to the overwhelming abundance of female victims of sexual assault in the military. “Locked and Loaded” will be constructed of 46 military-issue duffle bags mounted on wooden pallets to create a 7-foot wall, symbolizing the divide between the military and civilians. Each bag will be stenciled with a woman’s name and rank, and every duffle bag will be padlocked – representing permanence and secrecy.

"I didn’t think I would do work on military life. I wanted to leave it behind and move on, but I knew I had to do work that I could relate to,” said Walker, speaking of the art practice she began after her military service. “When I looked for reasons why women died in noncombat incidents, I was so mad because I didn’t realize how many women were dying by the hands of their brothers in arms. I was furious, and I knew I had to do something about it.”

Placed next to the installation will be a block of cement with 46 keys embedded into its surface, symbolizing the women’s absence and inability to return. These duffle bag “coffins” can never be opened.

ArtPrize Pitch Night launched in 2013 as a means of discovering and supporting ambitious, exciting projects and to reduce the barriers to bringing them to the annual competition. Since its inception, the Pitch Night program has continued to expand and in 2018 includes events in six cities across the country. Following last night’s event, 21c Museum Hotels will host the final Pitch Night event in Detroit, MI on May 31. Each event awards the winning artist $5,000 and a spot in a prominent ArtPrize venue during the tenth annual event.

ArtPrize 10 will take place across downtown Grand Rapids, Michigan from September 19-October 7, 2018. Artist registration for the world’s largest art competition is underway and will remain open through June 7.

By Alee'a Ulsh-Cherry on