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?


  1. We're delighted you enjoyed Disembodied Woman! Thanks for the shout out. xo, Jessica Bonenfant Coogan & the performers

  2. Thank you for the mention! Glad you enjoyed Processing Fiber at 250 Monroe, 3rd floor.