ArtPrize Seven offers exciting new all-ages activities for your entire family to explore, create, and learn together during your visit. These educational activites—located at The HUB—are in partnership with teaching artist Kelly Allen, who is the founding director of WiseMaker of The Geek Group.

I had the opportunity recently to sit down with Kelly to learn more about her successful career as an artist and why she is excited about the partnership with ArtPrize. 

Becca Guyette (BG): Who are you?

Kelly Allen (KA): I am a professional fine artist, educator, and facilitator of art making. I create drawings, paintings, and sculptures. I utilize a wide variety of materials and use reclaimed materials whenever possible. I have exhibited in solo and group exhibitions in New York, London, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago, Portland, Grand Rapids, Detroit, and other cities. Since 2007, I have taught various workshops and classes and, more recently, I began teaching youth and adult artists with developmental disabilities.

I have had a number of partnerships with local schools and arts organizations such as KCAD, WMCAT, UICA, ACT, GRAM as well as Ada Vista Elementary School. My work is locally represented by LaFontsee Galleries in Grand Rapids and Saugatuck.

BG: What is WiseMaker of The Geek Group?

KA: WiseMaker of The Geek Group is a creative reuse shop in the Arts and Crafts Department of The Geek Group. I envisioned this project while living and exhibiting my work in California, where many other Creative Reuse Centers are found.

Creative Reuse Centers (CRC) are resources for artists that collect and sell traditional and nontraditional art and craft supplies donated by individuals, manufacturers, and the design industry. Our mission is to inspire creativity and environmental awareness through promoting the creative reuse of materials that might otherwise end up in the landfill.

When moving back to Grand Rapids I found the opportunity to open a CRC at The Geek Group along with their Arts and Crafts Department. We have materials and tools for sewing, printmaking, painting, drawing, jewelry, and much more.

BG: Explain the partnership and programming with ArtPrize.

KA: Together, we designed drop-in studio spaces stocked with reclaimed materials so ArtPrize visitors may create their own works of art and an all-ages family event series featuring creative activities that explore the different ArtPrize entry categories. We have developed really exciting concepts that I cannot wait to implement.

BG: Why did you partner with ArtPrize?

KA: ArtPrize is a platform for artists to share our thoughts and ideas on a national/international stage. It has been fascinating and inspiring to watch ArtPrize develop and learn from each previous year. As an artist, it’s my role to be a part of the conversation. As the director of WiseMaker, it is my goal to utilize valuable reclaimed materials, share them with the community, and start a conversation about human consumption and reusing what we consume.

BG: What are you looking foward the most during ArtPrize Seven?

KA: I am looking forward to engaging with ArtPrize visitors and providing fun creative expereinces and help find their creative spark. It’s an amazing feeling that lets me know I’m fulfilling my purpose outside of my studio walls.

KA: I moved to the West Coast—twice!—but Grand Rapids provides a nurturing respite for me to dig deeper into my practice with less distraction and move forward to the next level. Grand Rapids is a place where someone can make something happen if they really want it. The creative community is open, growing, and hungry for new and exciting projects.

BG: How can people connect with you and WiseMaker of The Geek Group?

KA: Make sure to participate in our activities duing ArtPrize and visit WiseMaker at The Geek Group. The shop is open to the public Wednesday through Friday from Noon to 5 and Saturday from 11 to 2. Additionally, we are creating a Sustainability Parade to celebrate creativity and environmental awareness.

For more infomation about WiseMaker of The Geek Group visit thegeekgroup.org or e-mail kelly@thegeekgroup.

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By Becca Guyette on