An Open Letter to Steve Lambert

Hello Steve,

Christian Gaines here—I am the executive director of ArtPrize. I’d like to respond to your questions.

First, you were wondering where the Grand Rapids Community Foundation grant came from, and what it’s for, specifically. A quick Google search will turn that up and you can also read about it on our blog. Specifically, this grant is intended to help us with our diversity and inclusion work. In addition to our efforts welcoming and including the Grand Rapids LGBT community, the grant is also intended to more broadly help us address our social equity and cultural intelligence work.

To ensure the long-term growth of this programming, the ArtPrize board of directors, chaired by Rick DeVos, unanimously passed a resolution in May of this year which specifically mandates programming that takes action for equality and acceptance of the LGBT community, as well as all underrepresented populations.

We strive to be intentional and authentic in our efforts to make ArtPrize welcoming and inclusive to everybody and are committed at every level of this organization to do even more in this regard in the coming years. We’d like to hear how you would further improve our LGBT inclusion efforts at ArtPrize.

You should also know that the ArtPrize full-time and seasonal staff includes several who are LGBT. Many of us, straight and gay, advocate passionately around this issue. Personally, I’ve spent a life loving and accepting my LGBT siblings and their extended families. My mother is a recently retired Episcopal minister who served an LGBT-welcoming parish in San Francisco for many years. For what it’s worth, I have raised thousands of dollars for LGBT-support organizations like APLA and GIFT. This issue is close to me.

As Hrag Vartanian points out in his Hyperallergic editorial: “if Grand Rapids is serious about embracing art and about the art world embracing them, they will have to prove that they’re committed to creating an environment where art can flourish—one where all types of people, ideas and identities are welcome to play, work and live together.” This is a challenge that we relish, and Friday’s announcement of our Jury and Public winners provided some real encouragement for the journey.

I also want to offer you clarification around funding: 23% currently comes from a group of DeVos family foundations. You can learn about them on the ArtPrize sponsor page. 3% comes through a corporate sponsorship from the Amway corporation. There’s no secret or obfuscation there. 50% of our funding comes from corporate sponsorship. This includes Kendall College of Art & Design, who sponsors the Juried Grand Prize. The positive social, cultural, and economic impact that these funding entities have had on the lives of artists and on the city of Grand Rapids is profound and well-documented. As a non-profit arts organization serving artists, students, and educators while minting future generations of art lovers, we steward these resources carefully. As we expand and diversify our corporate sponsorship, foundational support, and membership programs, we’re implementing a plan to achieve greater financial sustainability.

I'm glad you expressed yourself publicly and openly. As Kevin Buist said: “ArtPrize is a place where artists’ voices are amplified and free expression is paramount." As I’m entrusted with leading the organization, I am happy to address your concerns directly.

Thanks for being an artist at ArtPrize 2014. Congratulations on the $2,000 ArtPrize Artist Seed Grant you received this summer to facilitate your participation in ArtPrize. Congratulations also for making your way into the ArtPrize Juried Shortlist and on all of the publicity you have generated around it. I hope it’s been an overall worthwhile experience and that it’s directed attention towards your work.


Christian Gaines
Executive Director, ArtPrize

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