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

Let me introduce myself.

My name is Iryna Bilan. I arrived in Grand Rapids from Ukraine at the end of August 2014, just before ArtPrize began. You’re probably wondering how I heard about your city’s event from so far away.

The first time I read about ArtPrize was in TIME Magazine, which reminded me of my friends’ family who moved to Grand Rapids half a year before I found that article. I was very glad for them, that they live in the same city where an event recommended by TIME was happening. At that moment, I couldn’t even imagine that in a year and a half I’d start my one-year professional traineeship with ArtPrize, and that I would have the chance to see everything from the inside.

After several months of preparation, I finally received my US visa. With event management experience and a marketing degree behind me, I now have one of the greatest opportunities to improve my professional skills and learn more about the American lifestyle. But I only truly understood this after I arrived.

When I was planning to come, I visited the ArtPrize website—reading about interesting ideas and looking at very beautiful pictures of a nice city. So, of course, I expected something good. Otherwise, there would be no reason to travel so far and for so long.

But it was really hard to imagine what to expect. To understand ArtPrize, you have to feel it. It’s almost all about emotions for me—emotions from meeting so many interesting people and seeing art everywhere. And emotions from being in this cozy and creative city.

I even remember my very first day, when I felt comfortable here in Grand Rapids. With sunny weather, street musicians, and the crowd around me, I was waiting at the crosswalk across from Madcap, and it was the first day of ArtPrize! Even in that short ten-minute walk, I saw friends or acquaintances three times! This is common in my hometown, Lviv, Ukraine. And this was the moment when I felt that this city had became familiar to me.

Stay tuned: I’ll discuss in my next blog how event preparation at this scale here in Grand Rapids is similar to and different from my hometown in Ukraine.

By Iryna Bilan on