Ushering the Unexpected

Rooted to a rich legacy of innovation and craftsmanship, the state’s second largest city has evolved into a world-class mecca for creative expression — and year-round arts discovery.
Lights in Night
Photography by Stacy Niedzwiecki

Named one of 2013’s Top 5 Events by Time Magazine, this autumn’s ArtPrize in Grand Rapids (Sept. 18-Oct.6) is as much about math as it is about art. When the radically open contest launched as an experiment in 2009, 159 venue owners showcased the works of 1,262 artists from 41 states and 14 countries. The line to see the winning entry stretched for more than two blocks.

Over three years, this catapulting global fete has tallied $1,428,000 in prizes and nearly one million visits to this city of 200,000 people.

Number of rules is much less.

Artist's Lorri Acott's piece called Conversation With Myself.
Photography by Johnny Quirin

Any artist over age 18 can compete; entries may be a single piece, a collection of pieces or an installation with multiple elements. Any property owner in downtown GR’s three-square-mile ArtPrize district can turn their space into a venue, from the Chase Bank Building and Van Andel Arena to Degage Ministries and Propaganda Doughnuts. Artists and venues register and independently connect at

Anyone at least 17 years of age can vote for their favorite artwork. And while public opinion decides the top award of $200,000, a panel of experts selects who wins a $100,000 Grand Juried Prize.

Though lesser amounts are given through 10th place and allotted for different categories like 3-D and Urban Space, cash isn’t the main caveat.

“ArtPrize is a platform for creation —everyone brings something unique to the table,” say organizers, and like everyone else, they’re excited to see what it might be.

Visit to peruse what’s in the wings.

Photography Courtesy of Felicia Fairchild

Art Trails Close-by

While signs of the globe’s largest open art contest take center stage in autumn, Grand Rapids is punctuated by engaging art and cultural destinations year-round. Peruse them at, and check out these nearby havens for the arts:

Grand Haven. Head less than an hour’s ride northwest for this year’s Grand Haven ArtWalk, Sept. 18-Oct. 5. A compilation of several hundred entries displayed for public vote in buildings and venues throughout Grand Haven’s historic Downtown, Centertown and Waterfront districts, this celebration features sculptures, paintings, photography and other works by area artists in sync with street parties, live music, free food, wine tastings, evening soirees and family-friendly activities (

Saugatuck/Douglas. Venture no longer just southwest to these acclaimed Lake Michigan arts communities. Drawn by sweeping shoreline vistas and the longstanding Ox-Bow School of Art, this region’s eclectic stretch of galleries and studios (including Marcia Perry’s gallery, above) is otherwise known as “The Art Coast of Michigan” (

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