A Call to Action for Grand Rapids Artprize Voters

For those who are not familiar with ArtPrize, ArtPrize is a city wide art show that takes place in a Grand Rapids, Michigan. No, you won't be going from one white tent to the next looking at art. ArtPrize showcases the city of Grand Rapids, presenting art in restaurants, museums, hotels, banks, churches and small businesses. Over 1,500 artist participate. Did I mention there was money involved?

For those who are not familiar with ArtPrize, ArtPrize is a city wide art show that takes place in a Grand Rapids, Michigan. No, you won't be going from one white tent to the next looking at art. ArtPrize showcases the city of Grand Rapids, presenting art in restaurants, museums, hotels, banks, churches and small businesses. Over 1,500 artist participate. Did I mention there was money involved?

Over the years Artprize has created a lot of controversy asking the age old question, "what is  art?"   Debating the idea myself I've come to the conclusion that not all art is good art. 

In past years, many very skilled artists I know personally have become extremely discouraged and dissatisfied with the public vote. In contrast, many voters have been blinded by sensationalism at ArtPrize.  I am discouraged by the bitter artists, embarrassed by the high brow critics,  and dislike the resistance to embrace the public into the art community.

I'm writing this to change that.

This year I encourage you to seek good art. I urge you to celebrate all the great things that Artprize can offer. 

It's not uncommon at Artprize to be overwhelmed with over the top images and massive sculptures. Have we become so overly exposed that art must be shocking to receive validation or, in the case of ArtPrize, a vote?

This year, don't vote for something because it's 10 stories high, painted bright blue or serves you a margarita. Don't vote for the piece because it matches the color of your living room or because you thought was "cute." Vote for a work of art because is displays a high level of craftsmanship and skill. Vote for work that displays thought and understanding in a subject that you enjoy. When voting, ask yourself, what is the relationship between what it is made of and the meaning? How skillfully is it created? 

"Ballet Class" is exhibited at the St. Cecilla Music Center on Ransom Ave. Vote Code: 53539

"Ballet Class" is exhibited at the St. Cecilla Music Center on Ransom Ave.

Vote Code: 53539

Plan your visit. Find interesting venues, especially ones that support the arts. 

Good art can be found anywhere at ArtPrize but serious artists showcase their work in venues where their art will receive the respect it deserves. I guarantee that finding art that you truly enjoy will make for a better Artprize experience than wandering aimlessly on Monroe Center or chasing after the "ARTbus"  with a full belly of street food. Finding art you can really appreciate may take you off the beaten path but will be an experience worth having. 

Vote for work that is creative and original.

One of the hardest aspects about ArtPrize is considering the differences between genres of art. It's nearly impossible to compare a watercolor painting to a clay sculpture. One genre is not "more challenging" then the next, each has it's own obstacles. That's why this year at the Olympics the gymnasts didn't compete against the rely runners. Acknowledge these differences when casting your vote.

The tension in these hard questions is why ArtPrize draws (no pun intended) an audience of thousands! Find good art. Change the debate and change the vote. 

Quite frankly, I've heard what the art snobs have said about the public vote and I think they are wrong. Many of them believe that you need to have an art degree to decide whether or not a piece of art is valid art. What they are forgetting is that the public is their audience.  Many artists who realize this have created art that is not art, but sensationalism. Where is the balance?

I believe that balance can be found in understanding and open mindedness. I imagine that many voters are not artists, art historians, art collectors or avid art gallery goers. Whether you're new to the art scene or have studied art your whole life, it doesn't mean we can't make a thoughtful vote when it comes to Artprize 2012. 

Why? Because art matters! Almost everything around you has been touched by an artist in someway whether it's an ad in a magazine, the chair your sitting in, the car you drive or the picture book you read to your child. 

Art is not just a hobby. Art is serious. Artists would agree that art is to be enjoyed by anyone and should indeed be celebrated. Each year Grand Rapids receives world recognition for Artprize.  The winners of this contest represent our voters and our city. Vote well, and enjoy Grand Rapids in all it's glory.