Art lovers love Grand Rapids and for good reason: our city is chock-full of beautiful and innovative art. For starters, La Grande Vitesse, by Alexander Calder, stands tall downtown, reminding everyone who passes by of Grand Rapids' commitment to the arts.

Add to that the impressive collections at the Urban Institute of Contemporary ArtsGrand Rapids Art Museum and Frederik Meijer Gardens and Sculpture Park, and our unparalleled art competition, ArtPrize, which attracts more than 400,000 to our city each fall. In addition, Grand Rapids is home to several educational art programs, like those at Grand Valley State University and Kendall School of Art and Design and hosts a myriad of art galleries, as well. The Urban Institute of Contemporary Arts is now featuring dinner and a movie. Enjoy local restaurants and then venture to the UICA for a unique art film experience. Film showtimes and info here. 

Last year, the inaugural Experience Grand Rapids Art Outdoor campaign encouraged local artist to submit artwork that depicted and promoted Grand Rapids as a travel destination. A selection committee comprised of art devotees and Grand Rapids gallery owners chose 5 submissions to be displayed on billboards throughout the state during the summer months.

For 2016, Experience Grand Rapids is again inviting local artists to submit a design for the second annual Art Outdoor Project, in a new partnership with the Urban Institute for Contemporary Art. Urban Institute for Contemporary Arts builds creative community by fostering new forms of expression, promoting collaboration, and providing genuine experiences with contemporary art. 

Interested in participating? You can submit your artwork here. The submission deadline is April 13, 2016 and selected artists will be notified by May 15, 2016.

Once again, the selected artists' artwork will be featured on billboards across the state of Michigan from August - September. Each of the five chosen entries will be randomly assigned to one permanent billboard location. (Merchandise containing the chosen winning works could be available for sale on to coincide with the launch of the exhibition. In that case, artists will be paid a commission on items with their selected work.)

Here’s a peek at the 5 artists and pieces of artwork that were selected to appear on billboards in 2015, along with some of their thoughts about participating in the Art Outdoor project. What amazing local talent!

Maggie Bandstra, “Rosa’s Park”

Maggie Bandstra

“Being one of the artists selected for the Art Outdoor Project 2015 was a highlight of my year. I felt honored and I felt my work was valued. The personal attention to detail and professionalism of the team made being one of the artists selected a pure joy. It also led to some other really great experiences for my work and me.  I had my first solo show and participated in and won the Honda Design and Drive contests during ArtPrize.”

Emily Chilvers

Emily Chilvers' Grand Rapids Art Billboard

Emily’s picturesque piece was created with watercolor and marker and it highlights the Grand River, craft beer, and music. Chilvers, who is a professional tattoo artist, said she doesn’t really differentiate being drawing with watercolor and marker and creating tattoos. “What I design depends on who’s viewing it,” she explained. “I think about who will look at it and appreciate it.”

Alex Gilford, “Modern Window Cleaners”

Alex Gilford

"Being a part of Art Outdoor '15 meant a lot to me because I feel that the Grand Rapids community gave me my start as an artist. I am glad that my artwork contributed to the placemaking effort there. I've never had my artwork shown on such a large scale, both physically and programmatically. My involvement received a lot of attention through publicity and directly from colleagues. My favorite part about the project was when people came and told me that they had, either intentionally or by accident, driven by the billboard. It not only sparked a conversation about my art and the project but about the thriving arts and cultural sector in the city of Grand Rapids."

Alynn Guerra

Alynn Guerra's Grand Rapids Art Outdoor Submission

“When I came across the call for submissions, my first thought was, ‘How amazing would it be to have real art displayed on billboards? Like an enormous canvas along the highway?’" What a great way for Grand Rapids to showcase the fundamental role its artists have played in transforming it into the sparkly, hip city it is today. There are no words to describe the feeling when I saw my humble little print 10000% times bigger. It definitely shows appreciation. Thanks for giving artists this opportunity.”

Nick Nortier, “House Faces,” or “House Monsters”

Nick Nortier

"Being part of Experience GR's Art Outdoor Campaign was incredibly important in pushing myself forward.  2015 was the first year that I did art full time to make my living and I must say, it was incredibly tough.  The billboard came at just the right time and was further encouragement to keep pushing myself forward and to believe in myself as an artist.  I was honored that I was chosen as one of the five artists to represent Grand Rapids in this manner and the fact that they wanted to use my artwork to advertise our city was really amazing and very exciting.  I am very happy to have been involved with this and hope that in continues in the future."