ArtPrize in Grand Rapids, MI wrapped up this weekend and although I was only in the midst of things for two of the show's nineteen days, I managed to get around to various neighbourhoods within the city and see countless works of art in venues that ranged from modern art museums to coffee shops to displays in social work office windows. It was a trip. Happily, I was able to enjoy some site-specific and now-or-never work that by next year would not have been possible in the same way. Old buildings in need of refurbishment or on the docket for redevelopment became sites for experimental works that drew attention to the downtown environment. That element of urban change and regrowth occurring in Grand Rapids right now has a curious cause-and-effect relationship with ArtPrize itself. As a booster for the economy, the event brings in tourist dollars as well as business generation, and the visual arts serve as a catalyst for all businesses, artists, and visitors to engage in different ways. Almost anything goes.
I was impressed by the stalwart artists who attended their work every day throughout the show, and it was this ability to actually speak to someone about their work--even though they were exhausted and ready to pack up and move on already--that brought the most gratification as a visitor. Especially in large, overwhelming venues where the work was random and stretched through corridors in a maze-like fashion, the connection to an artist and their work at the same time made, for me, a world of difference in this little arty circus.
As I head back to Wisconsin and take some time to reflect on the work I saw, there are definitely some pieces that stuck with me, and many of them were in unexpected places. I can't wait to share some of the artists' work that I found.