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Written by JoLee Casares, ArtPrize Exhibitions Coordinator.

Traditionally, ArtPrize has given hundreds of thousands of dollars to artists, awarded through the public votes of visitors who make the trek to Grand Rapids for eighteen days. We watched it play out and after a few years, jurors were introduced to award additional prizes for artistic merit and creative execution. As we continued to watch, we saw tens of thousands of artists from across the globe look forward to this event made possible by simple voting and juried systems.

This year we are changing the game. Quite literally, creating a new one.

During the ArtPrize 2021 event, nearly 500 individual monetary prizes will be digitally hidden throughout the ArtPrize district. Visitors will be able to scan QR codes to find these prizes and award them directly to artists. The power of giving is now in the hands of the visitors of ArtPrize.

Among the hidden prizes, visitors will also find and award non-monetary prizes directly to artists as well. These prizes are aptly named sentiments that can be shared with an artist to let them know not only if a viewer likes their work, but how they feel, what they think, or what it reminds them of. This will be a useful tool to artists who seek more meaningful feedback from viewers. 

We are also excited for jurors to return to review the incredible work coming to ArtPrize. Jurors determine winners and honorable mentions in four categories which include 2D, 3D, Installation, and Time-Based. The juried component was and still is an important part of ArtPrize - this is a competition afterall! These awards are sponsored by Haworth with each category winner and honorable mention receiving $10,000 and $2,500 respectively.

While there are many prizes that can be awarded directly through the ArtPrize game and by the jurors, there will still be a grand prize of $50,000 presented by Wolverine Worldwide. This will be awarded to the artist who receives the most prizes.

But still… why? Why would an organization abandon one of its basic functions? Why would an institution remove such a deeply rooted element of its circumstance? Why would ArtPrize leave voting behind?

The answer is simple: The Future.

We have seen for years ArtPrize create unique and impossible experiences for artists, venues, and visitors. People, who are really what makes ArtPrize possible, have been changed by the event and the connections they make here. We feel so fortunate to be able to welcome you back downtown for this fall - especially after all of the unique and impossible circumstances of 2020.  

ArtPrize 2021 has been built on the same framework existing since its inception, the goal remaining to bring art and people together, remaining nimble and ever-changing for over a decade. The small team putting together this year’s event has been able to accomplish so much by standing on the shoulders of all the savvy and creative giants that have come before us. 

And now we are eager to not only stand in its tradition, but begin leaning into what is to come, finding out what we can continue to build and change together. We are so excited to continue re-imagining what a world class art event can look like in Grand Rapids, Michigan with new technologies, interactions, and hopes on the horizon.

For a detailed walkthrough of how to play the game and award prizes, visit this blog post.

By Kati Molhoek on