Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Art Prize 2010

Some people have a cynical view of ArtPrize. I've heard it called "Art-Idol" a few times by the big-city papers on the coasts. They question the viability of leaving it up to the ordinary public (let alone us un-washed, back-woods midwesterners) to have a voice in art. It's somewhat of a pompous attitude, a sneer downt he end of the nose, a laughing scoff. Hell, when it was announced almost 2 years ago, a lot of people around here had the same reaction. A young Devos, heir in a multi-billionaire family was talking about art in the economic downtown. As Alex Nixon of the Kalamazoo Gazette described her feelings of what she felt was Devos's "out of touch" attitude. We were all soon proved wrong. The event was a smash hit beyond all expectations. More than 250,000 votes, downtown swarmed with people for days, and an economic booster shot to downtown Grand Rapids. As we saw, we got plenty of media attention around the country.

Art Prize 2010 is here and in it's final week. The event this year is longer, with more venues, more art and more everything. All indications are that crowds are up from last year as well. This year there have been almost double the votes for the top-ten, more than 450,000 total votes! We will have to wait on the economic numbers, and the estimates of crowd sizes over the two weeks but it looks like 2010 will shatter 2009's crowds. Downtown has been busier than anyone's seen it in decades, or ever for that matter. People 'get it' now, and are fully engaged. People don't just go once, people are going every chance they can get. There is so much, it takes almost two weeks to see almost everything. Why NOT just go and enjoy the crowd surfing and people watching in the beautiful fall weather we've had?

People are now starting to come from out-of-town to see the show. Furthermore, people from other states are now coming to see what all the fuss has been. When that starts happening, you know you've hit something. Why do they come? Because no one has really ever seen anything like this. It really does defy description, especially when you have tens of thousands of people jamming the streets and buildings of GR. It's almost chaotic and un-controlled. Two words very alien to the art conversation. Then again, this whole concept of letting the "layman" be the "expert" is alien to the art world. We won't let a panel of judges tell us what food we like, or what beer we ought to think is the best. Heaven knows we don't like others telling us what to believe, or how to run our country. So then, in response to the pompous voices in the high-class art world, why should we let you tell us what we ought to think good art is!? Good art is up to the individual person. Art is for everyone. The old and young alike, the rich and poor, the city-dweller and the farmer, and for any and all religions.

What I am really getting at here is that ArtPrize is OURS. There is a good chance we will see copy-cat events starting up in NYC, Chicago or LA soon. Will they draw larger crowds? Probably. Will they get more publicity? Without a doubt. Will the art critics hypocritically hail these new art events as "wonderful public successes" after sneering at ours, simply due to the "coastal bias"? Highly likely. What needs to happen is for Grand Rapids, and Michigan, to seize the opportunity now the cement this as OURS, the original, the one and only. The one that was sneered about and the concept laughed at. The one that in the end shattered all pre-conceptions and stereotypical molds of what should be. This should be OUR "intellectual property" as it were. We can't simply let this fade quietly into the night. Like Celebration, this needs to be a constant, annual event. The incorporation of a big-name concert at Rosa Parks circle was wonderful this year. I think there needs to be more concerts incorporated in the two-week span, as music is art just the same.

At any length, enjoy some visual aids, my arguement is done.

You've got until October 10th, so get downtown and fully enjoy the weather, the people and the displays before they are gone until next year.

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