In just a few weeks, ArtPrize returns for its ninth year to Grand Rapids, starting September 20 and ending on October 8, 2017. With 180 venues, 1,349 entries, and artists from 41 states and 47 countries, visitors can look forward to seeing an abundance of fascinating artwork and participating in plenty of compelling discussions.

If you’ve been to ArtPrize before, you may feel like you know what to expect. You’ll see innovative pieces, you’ll find art on bridges and in the water, you’ll be surprised by what you like and what engages you, and you’ll vote for your favorites.

But ArtPrize, the world’s largest annual public art event, is never static. There are several changes and enhancements you can look forward to this year, starting with the voting process.

ArtPrize 2016 Wounded Warrior Dogs piece by James Mellick
ArtPrize 2016 public vote grand prize $200,000 award winner, Wounded Warrior Dogs, by James Mellick. Photo Credit: Jeffrey Wilkinson, courtesy of ArtPrize

Voting Changes

As you may know, ArtPrize has two rounds of voting. The first round opens at noon on September 20 and visitors can cast a vote for any artwork that strikes their fancy. From those votes, the top five pieces of art in four distinct categories – 2-D, 3-D, Installation, and Time Based – comprise the 20 finalists.

While the public is voting, category jurors are also placing their own votes on artwork entries. The jurors choose their own five finalists in each category as well. In the past, the public voted on the 20 public vote finalists and the grand prize jury would choose from the 20 jurors’ selections.

What Has Changed This Year

“This year, we’re blurring the lines between the public and jury selections, bringing them into one pool of 40,” explained Jaenell Woods, Communications Manager for ArtPrize. That means that you – the public voter – will get to cast your final vote for any of those 40 finalists, as will the grand prize jury. From those 40 finalists, the winner of the $200,000 grand prize winner is selected. By combining the public and juror votes, ArtPrize hopes that we’ll all engage in more conversation around the similarities and differences between the popular and professional opinion.

Crowd enjoying the Sand Sturgeon sand painting by Gary Moran at ArtPrize 2016
This gorgeous temporary sand painting, Sand Sturgeon by Gary Moran, was part of ArtPrize 2016. Photo Credit: Jeffrey Wilkinson, courtesy of ArtPrize

The Founders ArtPrize Brew

For the fifth year in a row, award-winning Founders Brewery Company rolled out a new beer to support ArtPrize. It’s called Green Zebra, and it is a traditional German gose style beer, something Founders has never commercially produced before. Fans will be delighted to know that although the brewery has featured gose brews before in its taproom, this is the first time they can find them in stores. You can also try it in the Founders taproom, and it will be available at several ArtPrize venues.

“The flavor profile is watermelon and sea salt, so you get a little bit of a dry finish from the sea salt,” says Woods. “We’re excited to see them experiment and bring in something new and fun for the annual event.” It’s always fun to try something new from Founders, and it tastes even better when a portion of the proceeds goes to ArtPrize.

People exploring the Light Cave piece by FriendsWithYou at ArtPrize 2016
Light Cave by FriendsWithYou, an ArtPrize 2016 Featured Public Projects grant recipient. Photo credit: Jeffrey Wilkinson, courtesy of ArtPrize

Shipping Container Murals

Last year, ArtPrize Eight launched Featured Public Projects and granted $50,000 to help artists realize and execute ambitious, large-scale projects. While ArtPrize Nine will still feature the traditional large-scale projects – you’ll find the five projects on the Gillett Bridge, Calder Plaza, in the Grand River, along the Grand River, and at Ah-Nab-Awen Park – this year you’ll also get to experience ArtPrize Murals, a new addition to the Featured Public Projects. (The Featured Public Projects grants also increased to $85,000 this year.)

The four participating ArtPrize Murals artists hail from Atlanta, Chicago, Detroit, and Los Angeles and are creating murals on shipping containers rather than traditional walls. You’ll find these unexpected venues throughout the city – two will be on the Blue Bridge, one at North Monroe Park (a special ArtPrize venue located at 525 Monroe Avenue, NW), and the other at Calder Plaza. If you’re in town the weekend before ArtPrize kicks off, be sure to stop by to meet the street artists as they transform the shipping containers into works of art.

People studying The Last Supper wall piece by Julie Green at ArtPrize
The Last Supper by Julie Green. Photo credit: Drew Davis, courtesy of ArtPrize

ArtPrize Experiences

ArtPrize has always helped visitors navigate the vast array of art installations around the city. One of the fan favorite programs is the Pantone Pathways. These pathways create ArtPrize trails through five different neighborhoods, making it easy to navigate artwork in different parts of the city.

In addition to the pathways, ArtPrize Nine is introducing ArtPrize Experiences, which includes the following five ArtPrize Experience Guides: The Family Experience, The Critic’s Choice Experience, The Outdoor Experience, the Rainy Day Experience, and The Brew Lover’s Experience.

The Family Experience will include two different routes: one geared towards families with younger children that will feature lots of outdoor artwork, and one for families with older kids to help foster interesting conversation.

The Critic’s Choice Experience Guide will feature artwork that won a grant. It also features venues that are participating this year and have previously been nominated for or won the Outstanding Venue Award.

You guessed it! Outdoor artwork will be the main feature of The City Sights/Outdoor Experience Guide, but it will also include other must-see locations central to downtown that aren’t entries, like the Meyer May House and Alexander Calder’s La Grande Vitesse.

“We also have a Rainy Day Experience Guide to try to help people stay dry on those rainy days, by taking advantage of the skywalk,” Woods explains. “We’ve mapped it out to show visitors what they can see along that route, with tips on parking, taking shuttles, and what to bring to make sure you have a good time on the rainy days.”

The final guide is the Brew Lover’s Experience Guide, which isn’t just about beer. “This guide takes a look at any venues that are breweries or coffee roasters,” says Woods. The brewery tours start at Founders Brewing Company and Ferris Coffee & Nut Co. kicks off the coffee tour.

“You can find printed copies of the guides at all eight hubs and also at different venue points, like DeVos Performance Hall, Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park, the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum, and others,” Woods says. The online guides also include printer-friendly options, in case you want to plan – and print – in advance.

Crowd viewing The Great Race piece by Michael Peoples at ArtPrize 2016
The Great Race by Michael Peoples. Photo credit: Drew Davis, courtesy of ArtPrize

Metro Pass Special Benefits

Over the past few years, you can purchase a Metro Pass at participating Meijer grocery stores. When you do, you receive an event guide and you can park your car and ride the bus to the ArtPrize district. It’s an easy, convenient way to avoid downtown traffic and parking. The $5 Metro Pass includes 10 rides on The Rapid’s fixed routes and unlimited rides on the Silver Lines for the duration of ArtPrize. You can also buy a Metro Pass at all ArtPrize HUBs. (Even without a Metro Pass, you can take advantage of Meijer’s Park and Ride lots and pay for a ride downtown on The Rapid.)

New this year, the Metro Pass also includes a day pass to the ArtPrize Members Only Clubhouse. “It’s a great spot to sit down and recharge, have a drink and a snack, charge your phone, and just relax among the hubbub,” says Woods.

“This year Metro Pass holders will also get a discount on one item at the Hub HQ retail store.” Located on the seventh floor of the CWD Building at 50 Lewis NW, the building alone is worth a visit. “It’s a really beautiful space, with tall ceilings, hardwood floors, and exposed brick.”

Polar Expressed piece by Anni Couter at ArtPrize 2013
Polar Expressed by Anni Couter, ArtPrize second prize $75,000 winner, 2013. Photo credit: Kirsetin Morello

DASH Shuttle to Rumsey Street Project

For ArtPrize Nine the Downtown Area Shuttle, or DASH, has extended its hours as well as are all accessible for people with disabilities This year you’ll be able to take the Free Rumsey Street Shuttle from Rosa Parks Circle to the Rumsey Street Project, a neighborhood of unoccupied structures including a former Catholic church. Check it out on weekends throughout ArtPrize. Fridays and Saturdays it runs from 2PM - 8PM and on Sundays from 2PM - 6PM. 

Another great option for visitors from out of town is to take advantage of Experience Grand Rapids’ ArtPrize Hotel Packages, which include special discounts and offers. Suburban hotels will provide guests with a wristband and nearby Park & Ride locations. Make your way to the closest Park & Ride, board the shuttle and it will take you downtown! The shuttles will run Friday, Saturday, and Sunday of ArtPrize weekends.

Awards Ceremony and ArtPrize After Dark

Everyone involved with ArtPrize, from artists to volunteers to visitors, anxiously awaits the awards ceremony. For the past three years it has been held at the Civic Theatre, but this year it is moving to 20 Monroe Live. “The Civic Theatre is a gorgeous venue and we’ve loved being there,” says Woods, “but when 20 Monroe Live opened, it gave us the possibility of expanding our audience.” ArtPrize is excited to be able to include event members, volunteers, and participating artists and venue managers at the award ceremony this year. The public can join the excitement at the Public Viewing Party at Rosa Parks Circle.

Another exciting addition to this year’s ArtPrize is its collaboration with radio station 104.5 WSNX to give away tickets to the awards ceremony and the after-party, ArtPrize After Dark. The station will give away ten pairs of tickets after the juried award finalists are announced on September 25. “It’s the only way for the public to get tickets to the actual awards ceremony,” Woods says.

The public can, however, buy tickets to ArtPrize After Dark, which will also take place at 20 Monroe Live immediately following the announcement of the $200,000 Public Vote and Juried Grand Prize winners. You won’t want to miss the fun with Detroit-based band ONEFREQ and headlining artist, Maségo.

ArtPrize Nine offers so much to see, so much to learn, and so much to talk about! Don’t miss your chance to view the fabulous art, place your vote, and be a part of ArtPrize Nine.