Welcome to ArtPrize

About ArtPrize

ArtPrize is an open, independently organized international art competition which takes place for 19 days each fall in Grand Rapids, Michigan.  More than five hundred thousand dollars in prizes are awarded each year, which include a $200,000 prize awarded entirely by public vote and another $200,000 prize awarded by a jury of art experts.

Any artist working in any medium from anywhere in the world can participate. Art is exhibited throughout downtown Grand Rapids—museums, bars, public parks, restaurants, theaters, hotels, bridges, laundromats, auto body shops, vacant storefronts and office spaces. Artists and venues register for the competition then find each other through an online connections process in late spring. No one at ArtPrize selects a single artist or artwork, directs an artist where to show work or directs a venue what to show. In 2016, 1,453 works created by artists from 40 states and 44 countries were exhibited in 170 venues.

ArtPrize is free and open to the public and now attracts over 500,000 visitors, making it the most attended public art event in the world in 2014 and 2015, according the The Art Newspaper’s annual “Big Ticket List.”

ArtPrize is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization. ArtPrize Nine will take place from September 20 -- October 8, 2017.

ArtPrize History

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

Rick’s idea was simple but striking: to create an art competition open to anyone willing to submit work and to award the world’s largest art prize, of $250,000 that year, to a participating artist based solely on votes from the public present at the event. A signature of that first ArtPrize, and every ArtPrize since then, is voting on the Web or the ArtPrize app. Visitors to Grand Rapids who experience the art get to register their opinions through two rounds of voting.

From the beginning, ArtPrize was a totally new type of citywide event intended to disrupt typical highly curated art prizes. And from the beginning it has provoked discussion, on the streets and online.

On opening day in 2009, more than 150 venues displayed the entries of 1,262 artists from more than forty states and a dozen countries. Neither Rick nor Grand Rapids was 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. When the results came in, Brooklyn artist Ran Ortner won the public vote and the $250,000 top prize for his large-scale painting of ocean waves “Open Water No. 24.” On the final day of the event, a line to see the winning piece stretched down the street for over two blocks. In a city of approximately 200,000 residents, an estimated 210,000 people came downtown to experience ArtPrize.

ArtPrize has grown and evolved since it was founded.

In 2010, ArtPrize introduced an international jury composed of artists, critics, curators and museum directors who awarded a series of juried awards. Each year since 2010, recognized art world experts have come to Grand Rapids to participate in the judging of art and awarding of prizes.

In 2011, ArtPrize became a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization governed by a Board of Directors.

In 2014, parallel category prizes were also introduced, giving the public the chance to compare their votes with those of art world experts in four broad categories of art, including two dimensional, three dimensional, installation and time-based work.

Since 2014, two grand prizes of $200,000 each, one by popular vote and one by jury vote, have been awarded. With two grand prizes, the category prizes, and a special juried award for the best-curated venue, the total amount now awarded each year is $500,000.

In 2014, for the first and only time so far, an artist won both the Public Vote Grand Prize and the Juried Grand Prize (the latter of which was shared as a tie with Sonya Clark). The double winner was Anila Quayyum Agha for her piece “Intersections” exhibited at the Grand Rapids Art Museum. 

Today, in addition to artist prizes totaling $500,000, ArtPrize also awards grants totaling $280,000 to support artists, venues, curators and educators participating in the event. One signature program, ArtPrize Pitch Night, takes place in multiple cities across the country and provides $5,000 to artists to bring their installation ideas to ArtPrize.

Other programs have expanded the learning opportunities for the public during ArtPrize. The Critical Discourse speaker series brings art experts to Grand Rapids for free, public discussions about art. Pre-empting prime time local syndicated television, the series actually triples viewership on the local NBC affiliate.  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.

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.

Now in its ninth year, ArtPrize attracts a vast, enthusiastic audience of more than 26,000 visitors each day of the event to a Midwestern city ranked 26th in population in the United States. ArtPrize continues to stimulate conversation in Grand Rapids and beyond about how art connects to audiences and the role it plays in civic life.

ArtPrize Funding

Corporate sponsorship represents the largest single source of revenue, accounting for 56% of the $3.5 million operating budget in 2016.

Corporate sponsors in 2016 included national and regional Leadership Sponsors like Founders Brewing Company, PNC Bank, X-Rite Pantone, Switch, West Michigan Honda Dealers, Kendall College of Art and Design of Ferris State University, Meijer and Amway and Premier Sponsors like CWD Real Estate Investment, Edward Jones, Haworth, Herman Miller Cares, ITC Holdings, Michigan Lottery, Steelcase and Wolverine Worldwide.

The remainder of the annual budget in 2016 came from foundation grants (22%); earned revenue from advertising, retail and registration fees (8%); city, county, state and federal funding (7%) and individual membership and donations (7%).

Foundation support also included funding from some DeVos foundations, representing 16% of the total ArtPrize budget in 2016. These were the Dick & Betsy DeVos Family Foundation, the Richard and Helen DeVos Foundation, the Daniel and Pamella DeVos Foundation, the Douglas and Maria DeVos Foundation, the CDV5 Foundation and the Edgar and Elsa Prince Foundation. Amway, the company founded by Rick’s grandfather, Rich DeVos, is also a leadership level corporate sponsor.

The remaining six percent of the budget funded by foundation grants in 2016 includes support from the DTE Energy Foundation, the Frey Foundation, the Peter C. and Emajean Cook Foundation and the Wege Foundation.

City, county, state and federal support totaling 7% came from the City of Grand Rapids, Downtown Grand Rapids Inc., Experience Grand Rapids, the Michigan Council for Arts and Cultural Affairs, the Michigan Economic Development Corporation, the Michigan Film and Digital Media Office and the National Endowment for the Arts.

ArtPrize has close to 1,000 supporters who belong to its membership programs. These programs, ArtClub and ArtFan, and an annual summer fundraiser called “One Wild Night” bring in 7% of the organization’s income. Earned income totaling 8% includes advertising, retail and registration fees.

ArtPrize Expenses

More than one in four dollars spent at ArtPrize goes to direct and indirect support of artists. Fourteen percent of the ArtPrize budget is directly allocated to the prizes awarded to individual artists. An additional 14% funds programming providing support to artists, including an exhibitions team, participation grants like Featured Public Projects and Artist Seed Grants, artist development programs like ArtPrize Pitch Night and networking programs for artists like the Artist Party and the Clubhouse. Ten percent of the budget is allocated to Community Outreach including event guides and maps, way finding signage, visitor services and the volunteer program. Seven percent of the budget funds education programs serving nearly nineteen thousand students and includes the education team, school bus grants, venue partner grants and ArtPrize Labs. Lastly, 55% of the ArtPrize budget is spent on Administration and Production, which includes special events, web and app development, hospitality spaces, and full-time and seasonal team members.

When ArtPrize began in 2009, it was initially funded by an investment from the Dick & Betsy DeVos Family Foundation. In 2011, ArtPrize became a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization governed by a Board of Directors, chaired by its founder Rick DeVos. Subsequent support from the Dick & Betsy DeVos Family Foundation took the form of a no-interest loan. In 2016, ArtPrize retired the remaining balance on the loan and is now debt free. Betsy DeVos was a member of the ArtPrize board from 2011 to 2016.

For more financial information: