artprize 7 top picks (so far)

Over the last few years, I've started to think of this time of year as "ArtPrize season". It's technically fall but still really warm and by the time ArtPrize ends, it will officially feel like fall in GR. For those of you who aren't local, ArtPrize is an art competition that has taken Grand Rapids by storm since its inception in 2009. All of downtown fills with art and people comes out in droves to see it and vote for their favorite pieces. It's awesome. I love seeing our city come alive and there is nothing that engages people like ArtPrize has. Everyone has an opinion on the pieces that they see and even stronger opinions on the piece that are most popular.

I look forward to ArtPrize season every year. Todd and I have been meeting up for "ArtPrize-ing" on our lunch hours and we took the kids down on Saturday morning and then again after naps on Saturday afternoon.

I thought I'd share some of my favorite pieces so far and I would love to hear what is resonating with you too - there is plenty more time left to see more pieces and I love recommendations! Please share your favorites and what you think of mine in the comments section. I've also pointed out some pieces that will be appealing to kids. (P.S. If you are ArtPrize-ing with kids, check out the GR Kids Gigantic Family ArtPrize Guide, it's a great resource!)

Click through the venue names to see a full list of the works on display there.

Obviously, I think this is a must-see venue. The exhibition plays with the theme Nature/Nurture and some of the pieces are quite challenging. 

My favorites at GRAM this year are:

- Rattles and Cherries by Shannon Plumb
Videos aren't usually my thing but this one struck me as soon as I heard about it. The artist is shown trying to perform a bit of a burlesque number and then is pulled away by her crying child who needs to be comforted by nursing. Her struggle between balance her sense of self with her role as a mother just resonates with me, especially as I continue to get back into the swing of things since returning to work after Wells was born

Good For Kids:

- As Above by Judith Braun
This is pretty cool. The artist created this black and white image by apply graphite to the Museum walls with her fingertips. Take your kids home and see if they can make their own version of this with fingerpaint!

- Karma Dahlia II by Krista Schoening
A total crowd pleaser, this giant dahlia can be seen from inside the Museum or through the windows on Ottawa Ave.

- Kinds Regards by Armando Ramos
These are the big cat heads, super fun and whimsical.

- Blue Ribbon by Scott Hoyle
If your kids like farm animals, they'll appreciate this series of photographs of prize winning  animals raised by kids participating in 4-H programs. 

- Anishinaabensag Biimskowebshkigewag (Native Kids Ride Bikes) by Dylan Miner
A collection of bicycles created in collaboration with urban Native youth.

- Arranging Family by Carlee Fernandez
A huge christening cup appears near a photograph of the same cup with a family of four inside of it. Take a look at the cup and guess how many of your family members could fit in it with you!

I always enjoy Kendall's ArtPrize exhibition. They feature contemporary work, often on a large-scale which I'm always drawn to. 

This year, my favorites are:

- Last Supper by Julie Green
From afar, this looks like delftware but up close you'll see that the images on the plate are actually paintings of prisoners' last meals. It's so interesting to see what people have requested and humanizes these death row inmates as well. Very thought provoking.

- Phoenix by Alison Stigora
Burned wood is arranged to create an installation that lines an entire hallway at the Federal Building.

Good for Kids:

- Murmur Study by Christopher Barker
A row of receipt printers line the ceiling and are continuously printing live Twitter and Facebook status updates. Read along as they print.

- You Imagine What You Desire by Nathan Coley
This large marquee message is outside the building. I've only seen it during the day but I bet it looks stunning at night.

Good For Kids:

- #WhatLiftsYou by Kelsey Montague
These is the giant wings that everyone has been posing with. They're beautiful and fanciful and interactive, a perfect combination for ArtPrize.

Every year, SiTE:LAB picks an interesting venue and artists install site-specific works to great effect. This year is no exception and probably my favorite they've ever done. They took several houses and other building in a neighborhood and each has been transformed. They'll use the same space for ArtPrize next year and then turn the houses over to Habitat for Humanity for rehabbing, which is so cool. It's off the beaten path but absolutely worth visiting. 

I love this site so much that it's hard to pick favorites but if I had to, here are my top pieces, in no particular order.

- Rumsey Street Office of the Archivist by Mark Rumsey
- Stripes for St. Joseph by Nick Kline
- Women Disembodied by Jessica Bonenfant Coogan
- How to Feed a Wolf by Lora Robertson

Good for Kids: 

- Higher Ground by Kate Gilmore
This pink house is painted entirely red on the inside and women in white swing through the windows. It's very visually engaging and was Elia's favorite by far.

This whole site is dedicated to fiber arts and it's beautiful. All of it is good but these two large-scale installations are my favorite.

- Linear Motion by Amie Adelman
- Keeping Up Appearances by Ashley Blalock

Good for Kids:

- Constructing on Deconstructing by Borja + Toscani
Piñatas fill an entire half of this empty office building. The best part? At certain times, the artist asks visitors to break hanging piñatas as part of the piece. Try to get there for a breaking session, it really enhances the experience.

This is another venue that does a great job year in and year out featuring very contemporary art. 

- Relic by Tamara Kostianovsky
This looks kind of gross form a distance. It's large-scale replicas of dead birds and meat. Ick. But up close, you guys! It's made from old articles of clothing from the artist's friends and family and very impressive. I loved this - don't let the butcher style turn you off.

Good for Kids:

- The Great Race by Michael Peoples
Rubber duckies running up a wall. Whimsy all the way. 

- Symphony of Gestures by Sara Dittrich and Benjamin Buchanan
This is  performance piece and I just loved it! A string quartet plays from precarious positions throughout the performance area which is impressive enough but they also composed the music they play. Check their performance schedule and try to make it there for one.

Whew! That's a lot and only a snippet of everything ArtPrize has to offer.

What have you seen so far? What can't we miss?


a walk in the woods

When I was a kid my parents used to take us to a nature preserve at a nearby college. We would walk the paths through the woods, finding our way to bridges and ponds, looking for animals along the way. I remember loving our visits to the preserve as a kid.

Elia's First Hike at the Nature Preserve - Almost 2 Years Ago
Wells' First Hike at the Nature Preserve
Every so often, Todd and I visit the nature preserve and we took a hike there on Sunday. Almost two years ago, we took Elia there on her first hike. We've been back since and Sunday's hike marker our first time there as a family of four. Only a few steps into the hike, Elia asked if she could get out of her Kelty and walk. We obliged and off she went. 

As she ran through the woods, she squealed with delight as she found the same bridges that I walked as a kid, noticing chipmunks scurrying about and asking if she could swim in the algae-filled ponds. I loved watching her explore. She sees things that I don't notice and asks questions that make me think about things in new ways.

She loves to do new things and we make it a point to expose her to new things and take her on different outings. Most of them aren't particularly notable - a trip to the grocery store, paddleboarding at the lake, long walks, trips to the zoo and museums - normal kid things. Every time we go somewhere, we talk about new things and she see new things and gets to ask new questions and at her age, her world expands with every new experience. 

Though their adventures seem modest now, I hope we are teaching our children to explore, to be curious, and to find joy in discovery. I can't wait to watch both of our kids run around those woods together.


finds: september

This type of post is a little different for the blog but I love discovering and trying new products and services and these three have all really struck a chord with me lately so I wanted to share them with all of you. Let me know what you think!

1. cuddle + kind

I am a huge fan of knit dolls. They are soft, they are sweet, and there is just something so adorable about them. They also tend to come with a big price tag. These aren't cheap either but they come with something that other knit dolls don't - ten meals for kids with each purchase. 10! That's amazing. The company's goal is to feed one million children per year after they launch later this week and that is something I can get behind. The dolls are handcrafted by Peruvian artisans, which helps create economic opportunity as well.

If all of the above doesn't convince you to purchase a doll (pre-sales start on September 16), consider following cuddle + kind on InstagramFacebook, or Pinterest. Each follow equals one meal for a child - no purchase necessary! I just think this is such a great mission and company.

2. Kidizen

I don't have much patience for bargain hunting or resale shops - there's no guarantee that you'll find anything worth buying and with two babes, I just don't have the time of energy for that. I'd much rather pay full price at Baby Gap than spend time rummaging around a discount bin hoping to find something cute at the bottom.

And then came Kidizen. Kidizen is an app that lets you buy and sell used children's clothing. The interface is really user friendly and attractive which goes a long way in my book. I've found a few real gems and love that I can search for items whenever I have a few minutes free. All of the items I've purchased so far have been in great shape and it's just perfect for picking up some extra things when your babies are growing so fast. Some sellers offer gear and maternity clothes as well. The app is available for both iPhone and Android. Download it now and get shopping!

3. Mommy Mailbox

I started noticing a few Mommy Mailboxes popping up on social media while I was on maternity leave and when I saw what was in the August box, I started wishing that I had signed up for this monthly subscription service. Thankfully, they had a few extra boxes left so I was able to order one at a discounted rate - double score. Each month, a blogger curates a selection of products that are aimed to "uplift and reward mothers". Who doesn't need a little more of that in their lives? Honestly, it's not just mothers who would love these boxes, they would be great for any lady interested in receiving a fun surprise in the mail every month.

Photos of my August and September boxes are below. Subscriptions start at $30.95 and arrive in your mailbox the first week of the month. I can't wait to see what comes to my door in October!

I hope you've enjoyed hearing about some of my favorite recent finds.

Are you interested in trying any of these? If you do, let me know how you like them!
Have you found any great new products or services lately? I'd love to hear what they are.


wells: month three

That handsome guy? That's Wells. Our three-month old. 3 months! How is that possible? I know, everyone is always saying that about babies but time really does fly when your babies are growing up. I've probably already said that too, blame it on mommy brain. The struggle is real.

The past month has been so fun. Wells is such a smiley, sweet boy these days. And he's strong, as you'll notice in the photo below.

Since I returned to work last week, Wells is now splitting his time between daycare and his grandma's house doing just fine. You'd hardly know that he wouldn't let me put him down for days straight just six weeks ago.

Likes: Lights. Sitting in the highchair. Talking to people and being talked to. Being sung to.
Dislikes: Being alone. 
Nicknames: Bud, Bear, Wellsy Bellsy, Guapo

Month 2 Milestones: 
Started daycare and grandma care.
Sleeps through the night like a rockstar.
Coos all day long.

Other Notables:
Wears size 0-3 month clothes.
Is a thumb sucker!
We think he looks just like Dad - it's the eyes.

We love you, Guapo.