Getting Over My Art Aversion at ArtPrize

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I've said it on this site before, but I'll say it again: I'm not a huge fan of museums — especially art museums.

I did not stand in line at the Louvre to see the Mona Lisa, or buy a ticket to the Accademia in Florence to see David. Sure, I'll go every once in a while, when architecture is on display as much as art. But going to a museum just to see one or two famous pieces? Not really my cup of tea.

So when I discovered that I would be in Grand Rapids, Michigan, for the city's annual ArtPrize event, I was a bit wary. A whole city decked out in art? It sounded like exactly the sort of thing I wouldn't normally enjoy.

But then I actually started reading more about the event and realized that this is NOT your average juried art show.

ArtPrize 2014

ArtPrize is an annual international art competition held in Grand Rapids each autumn. But, unlike many other juried art shows, the art competing in ArtPrize isn't found just inside museums or one specific venue. Yes, some museums DO host competing artwork. But you can also find it outdoors, in hotels, in restaurants, and in just about every corner of the city — even in the river!

ArtPrize 2014
This installation made a lot of people stop and look.

ArtPrize is also unique in that while a jury selects one winner, the public also gets to vote on who takes home one of the $200,000 grand prizes. Pretty cool, right?

So when Elliot and I got to Grand Rapids and found sunny skies and tons of people milling about for ArtPrize (the event draws tens of thousands of visitors each year), we decided to hit the streets, too.

We vowed to avoid museum-like installations, and instead sought out the artwork peppered throughout downtown Grand Rapids. It wasn't hard to find.

ArtPrize 2014

ArtPrize 2014

We found sculptures outside the Gerald Ford Museum and all around the Grand Rapids Public Museum.

ArtPrize 2014

ArtPrize 2014

We stumbled upon it outside banks.

ArtPrize 2014

We even found ArtPrize work inside our hotel! (This pi table was one of my favorites.)

ArtPrize 2014

This year, the event featured 1,536 entries displayed in 174 venues across downtown Grand Rapids. That's A LOT of art. And I actually found myself enjoying spotting it.

ArtPrize in Grand Rapids
This guy started his mural on Day 1 of ArtPrize, and finished it on the closing weekend.

After a day of art-spotting downtown, we decided to spend part of our second day in Grand Rapids at the Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park. The sculpture park was an ArtPrize venue, but also plays host year-round to art and sculpture work that you can find and interact with outdoors.

Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park, Grand Rapids

American Horse at Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park in Grand Rapids

There are playgrounds for kids, lots of winding paths, and themed areas to complement the many sculptures. The nice day coupled with the changing autumn colors made this a great outing — I barely even realized that our whole day was art-themed!

Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park

Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park in Grand Rapids

We happened to be in Grand Rapids during the final days of ArtPrize, when votes were being tallied and awards were being appointed. The whole city had a festival-like atmosphere about it, and I have to say that it was infectious!

I may never be fully converted into an art connoisseur, but knowing that there are events like ArtPirze out there that make art more accessible (and fun!) to the average person definitely gives me hope.

ArtPrize 2014

ArtPrize 2014

This is one art event that I wouldn't mind experiencing again.

[dropshadowbox align=”none” effect=”lifted-both” width=”640px” height=”” background_color=”#ffffff” border_width=”1″ border_color=”#dddddd” ] IF YOU GO

ArtPrize takes place each fall in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Here are the dates for the next two years:

September 23 – October 11, 2015
September 21 – October 9, 2016

Where to stay: We stayed at the Holiday Inn Grand Rapids Downtown, which was in close proximity to a lot of museums, the river, and the downtown area. It's handy to have a car (and there's free parking at the hotel), but you really can walk or rent a bike and get everywhere from here, too.[/dropshadowbox]


Is ArtPrize something you think YOU would enjoy?


*Note: Big thanks to Experience Grand Rapids for hosting us during our trip!

"It's a dangerous business, going out your door. You step onto the road, and, if you don't keep your feet, there's no telling where you might get swept off to." - JRR Tolkien

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22 Comments on “Getting Over My Art Aversion at ArtPrize

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  1. I love it! I’m a lover of Art, albeit classical art of times gone back. I have actually gone to Amsterdam for just a day because I wanted to see the Rembrandt 100 year anniversary celebration! I would love to go to a place where the whole city was decked out. That would be amazing. I particularly like the clocks and the outdoor sculptures.
    Very nice!

      Ah, yes, I’m not into art museums like that. But plenty of people are – that is, after all, why they’re there!

    Here’s an art exhibition I would actually enjoy visiting! The clock-covered NOW installation and the dinosaur were definitely my favourites, but the Bucket List board was pretty cool, too.

    Just like you I’m not a fan of art museums and will choose gawking at beautiful buildings over looking at renowned paintings in a heartbeat (visiting Louvre didn’t even cross my mind when I went to Paris).

    ArtPrize sort of reminds me of CowParade, which I adored when it was featured in Lisbon. Have you been to one?

      Yeah, I loved that piece with all the clocks, too! Must have been fun trying to find them all. 🙂

      And no, I’ve never heard of CowParade!

    Well, I’m more interested in classical paintings and I’m a huge fan of museums but I understand and respect that not everyone have to like this kind of art. That’s good that there are art festivals that an average person will appreciate. 😉 And still I would like to see this exhibition or something similar just because I’m curious about it. 🙂

      Everyone has their thing – art just isn’t really mine! 🙂

    I also have the aversion to art – most of the time I would rather look at the building – but these photos are great. Pop culture is usually more my thing.

      I’m definitely with you on that! Architecture is usually way more interesting to me than art! But yes, this was very different!

    I’m not a big fan of art museums either when traveling… they’re never very eventful and each visit always blends into another when I do go. This looks fun though!

      This was definitely more memorable than any art museum I’ve ever visited! (Well, except maybe the Vatican Museums… but that’s totally different!)

    awesome! these are really cool! Would love to explore them all. I am a big art lover but I love public art such as this stuff even more

      Yes, I loved that so much of it could be found outdoors! Definitely more my speed. 🙂

    I love how accessible this is to the general public! What a great project.

    I actually enjoy art and museums, for the most part, but I despise how pretentious the art community can be sometimes. Art is for everyone – you just need to find what you like!

      And ArtPrize definitely has an “art is for everyone” vibe to it – which I LOVED!

    I’ve been to ArtPrize twice so far, and LOVE it. I’m already something of a museum/art person to begin with, but I love how ArtPrize has something for everyone to enjoy — even non-art-snobby persons like myself. It’s too bad, though, that you decided to stay away from the museums — because the best piece (in my opinion and many people’s opinions as it won both the popular prize and the juried prize) was in the GR Art Museum. And it was STUNNING. I wasn’t a huge fan of last year’s big winner — but this year’s was really amazing.

      Yeah, I AM kinda bummed that we didn’t see the winning piece up close, but we saw so much awesome stuff as it was! I’m really glad the wedding we were going to in Grand Rapids coincided with ArtPrize! It’s not something I probably would have considered going to otherwise, but now I’m so glad we did!

    Like you, I am also not a fan of museums, but this one does look unique. I like the wall of clocks! I guess it’s more than just a museum. The inviting part is that even the outdoors are involved.

      The whole CITY is involved, which is really, really cool. There was art literally everywhere!

    Awesome! Love the dinosaur. I wish art events like this were more common!

      Dinosaurs made out of musical instruments are pretty sweet, right?? And yes, I would totally go to more artsy events if they were more along these lines!

    I sometimes feel ashamed about my lack of appreciation for art, so it’s good to read about someone else who feels the same way.

    I guess my taste is a bit like yours, because I do like the look of ArtPrize. My home city Perth (Australia) has something like this called Sculpture by the Sea. All the art is on the beach, and it’s pretty cool!

    Also, I am enjoying your posts about the midwest. I’ve long had a soft spot for that part of the USA, but it’s hardly ever written about by bloggers.

      You’re definitely not alone! Sculpture by the Sea sounds pretty cool, too. I mean, can you really go wrong with anything on a beach in Australia?

      Glad you’re enjoying my Midwest posts! They’re done with for now, but you can bet I’ll be writing about this part of the US plenty more in the future! 🙂

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