Did you know that the world’s most attended public art event takes place in Grand Rapids, Michigan? Since its inception in 2009, millions of people have visited ArtPrize to see thousands of artworks displayed in downtown parks, public squares, museums, bars, restaurants, galleries and anywhere else artists can secure a spot.
ArtPrize is an open, independently organized international art competition that celebrates artists working in all mediums from anywhere in the world, and it’s open to any creative with an artwork to enter and a venue willing to host it.
Visitor engagement is one of the most integral elements of ArtPrize. During its first 10 years, visitors were invited to vote for their favorite pieces, and the highest vote getters were awarded cash prizes, up to $250,000 for the grand prize winner. A new wrinkle was introduced in 2021, allowing visitors to award smaller cash prizes and emotional response awards directly to artists during the competition. The awards accumulated during the competition determined the final grand prize winner.
ArtPrize also includes a juried award competition presided over by art world experts. The difference (if any) between visitor opinions and expert viewpoints leads to fascinating conversations on the nature of art and its impact. Visitors can also directly engage artists on the ideas and techniques behind their art.
Art brings joy – and ArtPrize infuses all of Grand Rapids with a celebratory air. While the event is centered downtown, outlying sites (including Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park) also join in. The Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum, Grand Rapids Art Museum, Grand Rapids Children’s Museum, Grand Rapids Public Museum and Urban Institute for Contemporary Arts see their busiest crowds of the year. (So do downtown restaurants and breweries). Concurrent events and festivals bring even more people to the city center to have fun.
You can visit Grand Rapids any time of year for a glimpse of ArtPrizes past. Many former ArtPrize pieces remain as permanent installations or parts of collections in the Grand Rapids area – from massive murals outside the Grand Rapids Children’s Museum and Grand Rapids Ballet headquarters to these six pieces. They’re all part of a rich, vibrant art scene that makes Grand Rapids one of the Best American Cities for Creatives (Thrillist).
ArtPrize traditionally takes place over 18 days in September and October. It was held every year from 2009-2018. In 2019, ArtPrize organizers launched Project 1, a two month-long public art exhibition intended to rotate with ArtPrize every other year. The COVID pandemic necessitated the cancelation of ArtPrize 2020, but the competition returned in 2021 to great enthusiasm.
Organizers haven’t yet announced plans for next year’s event – but when they do, you can read all about it here!
ArtPrize began in 2009 as an experiment – a totally new event, unlike anything the world had ever seen. Radically open by design, it transforms Grand Rapids into an open playing field where anyone can find a voice in the conversation about what is art and why it matters. Powered by technology, the exhibition organizes independently with artists from around the world submitting their entries for display at hundreds of venues throughout the heart of the city. And it’s all free and open to the public who ultimately decides the winners.
In 2014 and 2015, London-based The Art Newspaper declared ArtPrize the world’s most attended public art event, topping exhibitions at the Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg, Russia (#2 in 2014) and The Tate Modern Gallery in London (#2 in 2015).
After celebrating its 10th anniversary in 2018, ArtPrize was scheduled for an every-other-year format, alternating with another community-wide art festival (Project 1). However, ArtPrize 2020 was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. With vaccines reducing case counts and outdoor events deemed much safer, ArtPrize is back for 2021.
Experience 10 years of ArtPrize history with this entertaining recap.