ArtPrize was launched in 2009 by native Grand Rapidian and entrepreneur Rick DeVos, who had the idea to create a new kind of art competition where anyone could enter any type of art, and anyone who attended could help pick the winner. It would also be a citywide event, with any venue in the city, from museums and bars to public parks and hotels, able to register to display the entries.
With a $250,000 prize in place, the world’s largest sum for an art competition based solely on votes from the public, the first festival attracted more than 1,000 entrants and over 200,000 visitors, who chose Brooklyn artist Ran Ortner as the winner.
Though the groundbreaking nature and significance of the event for both the city and the art world was proven by its immediate success, it has continued to grow and evolve ever since. More prizes have been introduced, including a series of juried awards given out by a panel of artists, critics, curators and museum directors from around the world.
In 2014, the festival was restructured around two Grand Prizes of $200,000, one chosen by the public vote and one selected by the panel of art experts. Other new features benefitting the city have included free public discussions about art, grants to support the artists, venues, curators, and educators participating in the event and educational programming for local schoolchildren.
Demonstrating the continued growth, 2017’s ArtPrize saw 1,346 works created by 1,512 artists from 42 states and 47 countries exhibited in 175 venues, and over its eight-year history, the competition has attracted nearly three million visitors and given out over $4 million in prize money. Alongside the huge economic impact it has had, it has stimulated the city’s art scene and culture and contributed to Grand Rapids becoming one of the best places to visit in the country.
ArtPrize 10 will take place from September 19 to October 7, 2018.