This is part two of three in a blog post series from ArtPrize intern Iryna Bilan, as she shares her experience during ArtPrize 2014. Read part one.

I’d like to expand upon my experiences during ArtPrize 2014. In my previous blog post, I described what it was like to come to Grand Rapids from Ukraine and witness ArtPrize for the first time. Some of my previous experiences helped me to prepare for what it takes to put on an event like ArtPrize. I had already been volunteering with a book fair in my hometown similar to ArtPrize in the number of visitors, and I had been involved in organizing different conferences and city festivals, so I had some idea about how large events run in Ukraine. And when I was preparing to go to the United States, I expected to see a similar pre-event operations managing process, in a more structured and neat manner.

What did I see? Yes, almost 90% of preparations were the same as I already knew. But the most important contrast was “how” these prepareations were handled: thought out, and on a higher level than I could imagine before.

I wouldn't say that in Ukraine there are no well-organized events. All of them, from my memory, are done with good mark, some I would even say “excellent”. But during the last couple weeks of preparation for all of those events, in my experience, the organizing team practically didn't see their families, they were so busy trying to prepare everything on time. And as a result, the visitors were satisfied, but still had a few complaints, and hard-working volunteers drew energy mainly from their own excitement and enthusiasm.

I remember from my schooling that preparation for a well-organized event, produced for large numbers of visitors, should take at least nine months, ideally one year. However, preparation time in Ukraine is often very minimal. This is due in part to funding, which does not cover the salary for full-time staff for a longer period, or for additional staff, too. There is simply not enough time to work with sponsors and partners, and state cultural non-profit organizations (museums and libraries, for example) count on limited funding from the state budget, a remnant of the old Soviet Union times. It’s like a closed cycle. And with that kind of a messy picture in my head I arrived at ArtPrize. 

Here in Grand Rapids, I saw a different picture, mostly because of the available resources—namely time and money. The way that ArtPrize plans, prepares, and successfully organizes is for me a very good example for the future—an example of how it should be behind the scenes of the organization. I mean, there's a good balance, where the satisfaction level from the event is equal for all stakeholders—for the visitors, artist, venues, volunteers, and partners, just as it is for the seasonal and full-time staff.

This is a great place to work (volunteer/partner), absolutely. And I don't believe that one year is too much time to prepare for the event. Actually, this is the ideal balance of time, producing a great end result.

Stay tuned as I’ll discuss in my next blog the thing that surprised me most about ArtPrize: the volunteer program!

By Iryna Bilan on