Transforming the Grand Rapids Downtown Market for ArtPrize 2014

The first round of votes are in and the top 20 entries at ArtPrize 2014 have been revealed! As we head into the final week of the art competition in Downtown Grand Rapids, guest blogger Claire Duthler tells us how one of this year’s first-time venues, the Grand Rapids Downtown Market, was transformed into a public art gallery for ArtPrize.

Screen Shot 2014-10-06 at 11.32.30 AMThe Grand Rapids Downtown Market celebrated its one-year anniversary on Labor Day weekend, with several exciting updates such as becoming LEED Gold certified, the opening of a new sushi bar and Creperie, and announcement of Food A’Faire, a fundraiser to benefit the Market’s Education Foundation. And what better way to continue that celebration through September and into fall than being a first-time venue in the sixth annual ArtPrize?

Downtown Market businesses are excited to be part of the action, welcoming ArtPrize crowds to “See our art. Taste our food.” Six pieces of art are exhibited at the Downtown Market, with installations located on both levels indoors as well as outdoors in the Market Shed.

ArtPrize is an excellent way to invite more community members in the doors to see how the artists have transformed the public spaces, as well as experience what else the market has to offer: 20 artisan food vendors, a picturesque greenhouse, beautiful patio to sit and enjoy a meal and an outdoor farmer’s market on Saturdays through November.

The Downtown Market’s mission includes engaging with the community in multiple ways and increasing accessibility to healthy food and nutrition education. In addition to welcoming guests in for public events such as ArtPrize, the Market works with local organizations on job training and programs such as the Healthy Eating for All scholarship program. Healthy Eating for All provides class scholarships to those with low-income to ensure they can learn about healthy eating and have the resources to purchase fresh produce at the Market

The Downtown Market’s education department even got in on the ArtPrize fun, hosting classes that combine our love of food with the season’s Art theme, such as “Play with your food”, “Artful Food Photography” And “Artful Dishes for ArtPrize.” While those classes are over now, the October schedule is full of upcoming classes filled with fresh local food themes, such as canning, cooking with seasonal produce, preserving root vegetables, homemade pasta, and more!

See our Art:

Screen Shot 2014-10-06 at 11.32.12 AMEntering the Market, guests are greeted by “Bloom Bloom,” Dana Lynn Harper’s overhead creation made of construction flagging tape and chicken wire. This beautifully bright piece is suspended from the ceiling of the Market Shed, blowing in the breeze, inviting onlookers to stop for a moment and look up.

Under the stairs to the second floor, Emily Moore’s “Ornamental Invasion” utilizes materials, ornamentation, location, and size as a means of processing Western society’s role in the degradation of nature and historical disparagement of anything understood as “feminine.”

Suspended from the ceiling and visible from both the downstairs and upstairs, “Mississippi Flyway: Alive in the Sky,” by mother-daughter duo Joan and Catherine Game, illustrates the path of migratory birds who use the Mississipppi River flight path to travel north and south. Thirty-four birds are represented as painted paper kites, with information below about each species.

Screen Shot 2014-10-06 at 11.35.39 AMIn the second floor atrium, “Oil Flowers,” a group of brightly colored, cartoonish flowers take on a more somber character when you read that they are created from plastic bags, which are made with substances derived from oil. This installation by Jerry Bleem addresses the ecological concerns associated with the material.

In the second floor hallway, two sets of paintings completes the ArtPrize art at the market. “A B See?” by Joel Schoon-Tanis is composed of 26 alphabetically themed canvases, approaching painting through a child’s lens. “Dinner Party,” by Christy De Hoog Johnson is a series of three abstract narrative paintings, each representing one piece of a story: The first is Cocktails; the second, Conversation; and the third, Charades.

An ArtPrize popup shop is also located in the Market Hall for art browsers to purchase ArtPrize gear. And a kids coloring area in the open seating area lets little ones get in on the action too by creating their own masterpieces for the refrigerator at home!

See more of the art featured across downtown Grand Rapids in the video below! Be sure to vote for your favorite piece by October 9th at midnight.

claireClaire Duthler is the special events and leasing manager at the Grand Rapids Downtown Market, handling inquiries about being a Market tenant and coordinating special community events hosted by the Market.




Six Steps to Making the Most of ArtPrize 2013

If you’ve never explored the unique buildings or graced the diverse streets of Grand Rapids during ArtPrize, you may be wondering where to start. No worries, there are few simple things you can do to make visiting the world’s largest art competition simple, fun and inspiring. Todd Herring, Director of Communications for ArtPrize, shares these steps with us below.

Step 1 – Get Inspired – Visit click “FIND ART.” Artists from all over the world will be showing at ArtPrize 2013.  Their work and their stories are inspiring, challenging and beautiful.  Browsing 1524 artist entries might seem daunting, but you can filter your search by choosing specific venues, types of artwork and descriptive tags like “music” and “photography.”  When you find artwork that you’d like to see, simply click the button marked “Add to Collection.”  This feature allows you to create multiple collections or “lists” that you can reference when you visit.

Step 2 – VOTE! – Voting takes you from passive observer to active participant.   There are two ways to register.  If you have an iOS (apple) or Android smart phone, simply open the ArtPrize mobile app while you’re in the ArtPrize district and you’ll be registered to vote in a snap.  Or you can check in at any ArtPrize voting site.  When you check in, you’ll get your free ArtPrize map, be registered to vote and able to purchase the complete ArtPrize event guide and transportation wristbands. All that’s left to do is GO SEE ART!  Cast your votes on the ArtPrize mobile app, online at, or via text.  Go to to learn more!

Step 3 – Keep Moving – Here at ArtPrize, we’re all about experiencing ArtPrize in the most active way possible. Take the bus, ride a bike, or walk the ArtPrize district! This year we have five walking path options, all roughly 1-2 miles in length. They all begin at Rosa Parks Circle and will take you into our local neighborhoods: City Center, Heartside, Westside, Monroe North, and Hillside. Each neighborhood brings it’s own perspective to the ArtPrize event–eclectic, historic, natural, cultural, near the water or right in the heart of it all. Each walking path will help you explore the city and sample everything ArtPrize has to offer.

A display from ArtPrize 2012.

Step 4 – Stay in the know – Every morning ArtPrize will publish a Daily that kicks out the news, daily schedule of events, major announcements and an Epic Events recap of the day before. The Daily can be found at You can even contribute to the Daily with your very own Epic Events video clips by downloading the Epic Events app from the Apple App Store. Checking out @ArtPrize for daily interactions and updates on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram will also keep you up to date on all things ArtPrize.

Step 5 – Attend ArtPrize Events – From ArtFitness bike tours to Grand Prize Jury panels to Internet Cat Video Festivals, there is something for everyone. For a full list of events, visit

Step 6 – Make it Your Own. – Whatever you’re in the mood for, there’s a perfect starting point to plan your own adventure. You choose the views, how much art you want to see or how long to linger.  ArtPrize is not the creation of one individual or team, it is the culmination of hundreds of thousands of independent voices, ideas and perspectives. It is art, creativity, culture and adventure, and it’s all waiting for you at ArtPrize.

Will you be checking out ArtPrize in Grand Rapids? Tell us in the comments section below!

Todd Herring is the Director of Communications for ArtPrize, an international art competition that annually draws more than 400,000 visitors to Grand Rapids, Michigan. With a background in product development and innovation, Todd now specializes in crowd sourced engagement models and speaks regularly on collaborative design, urban engagement and arts management.

Top 10 Tips for Experiencing ArtPrize 2013 in Grand Rapids

ArtPrize returns to Grand Rapids from September 18 – October 6! Guest blogger Kirsetin Morello shares her top 10 tips for making the most of your visit to this award-winning event.

The artists and venues are set and time is ticking down to the start of the 5th annual ArtPrize, the open, international art competition where you—the public—get to vote for the art you like best. And your vote really makes a difference: the winner takes home $200,000 in prize money. This unique event made Time Magazine’s list of Five Festive Events You Won’t Want to Miss in 2013 and draws more than 400,000 people to Grand Rapids annually to explore and experience art in an entirely new way.

Stick-to-it-ive-ness: Unwavering pertinacity; perseverance, by Richard Morse, ArtPrize 2012

If you’re planning to join the throngs attending ArtPrize from out of town and haven’t already booked a hotel, it’s time to get busy! See our first post in this series for tips on where to stay.

You’ll also want to do a little pre-trip prep so you can hit the ground running when you arrive in Grand Rapids. See our second post in this series for detailed information on how to register to vote, where to get a map, how to approach ArtPrize with or without kids, where to find food and parking, and various ways to get around Grand Rapids during the event.

Mantis Dreaming, by Bill Secunda, ArtPrize 2011

Whether you’re coming to ArtPrize from the suburbs of Grand Rapids or another state or country, though, some things will be the same: you’ll be wowed by the amazing display of art throughout the city, you’ll be impressed by the size of the crowd, and you’ll do more walking, much more!, than you expect.

To make your visit to ArtPrize the very best, here are our top 10 tips on how to get the most out of ArtPrize.

1. Check the weather app. Then add a jacket, some shorts, and an umbrella, regardless of what it says. Fall weather in Grand Rapids is fickle. We may see temperatures in the 80°’s during the day and experience a precipitous drop to 60° or lower in the evening. (Breezy nights make it even cooler, so you’ll be thankful for your favorite fleece.) Last year, my husband and I spent hours walking the 3-mile ArtPrize course—and it poured for a good bit of our walk. In the event the skies open up again this year, having an umbrella (or rain jacket with a hood) along will allow you to keep on trekking without too much disruption.

2. Sneakers. While fall may seem like the perfect time for jeans and sandals, take my word that you (and your kids, if they’re coming) do not want to see ArtPrize in shoes that are anything less than Very Comfortable. If your fashion sense forbids sneakers, find another shoe you deem acceptable that will provide you with adequate support. Trust me on this one. ArtPrize is enticing to kids and adults, so even if you plan on only walking a few blocks, it’s very likely your plan will change. Art is inside and outside, along the river and on hillsides. Throw fashion to the wind and wear good shoes. Your family’s feet will thank you.

3. Small backpack. If you plan to be downtown with kids, you’ll need a few supplies. Resist the urge to pack for every contingency. A couple of small snacks and some water, as well as diapers or any other small child paraphernalia should do it. If you weigh yourself down with a large backpack, it will get heavier by the minute and instead of enjoying the art, you’ll be focusing on your backache by about the third venue.

4. Camera. Obviously you want to bring one, but do you bring a fancy camera or will your smartphone suffice? This is a tough one. Sensibility tells me to suggest you take photos on your smartphone or with a smaller camera, especially because it’s incredibly difficult to capture the essence of the art on film (or digitally). However, if you’re a photography buff, you’ll kick yourself if you leave your favorite camera and lens at home. So, this one’s an individual choice but remember: you’ll be covering a lot of ground. If you don’t want to haul a heavy camera around and you’re comfortable leaving it in your hotel room or the trunk of your car, you may want to bring both cameras. (This is especially true if you’re already carrying a backpack.) Take the small camera or your phone along for your first round, and then return to your favorite spots with the big camera. Keep in mind, though, that because there’s so much to see that you may find it difficult to return to a venue you’ve already visited—there will be so many others you want to see! Be sure to bring back up batteries if you might need them—nothing would be worse than lugging your camera around all day and not being able to take a picture when you finally find your favorite entry.

Ocean Exodus, by Paul Baliker, ArtPrize 2011

5. Cash. ArtPrize is free, but you’ll want to have cash on hand anyway. Kids will get hungry, adults will get thirsty, and sometimes you just need a break from walking—sitting in a cozy restaurant is the perfect solution. While your backpack will help you get through short bursts of hunger, hopefully you’ve heeded our advice and not over-packed it. But Grand Rapids has so many delicious restaurants (and some incredible breweries) that there’s no shortage of places to stop. Just do it before or after everyone else—and expect a bit of a wait even then.

6. Swimsuits. If you’re coming from out of town and your hotel has a swimming pool, be sure to pack swimsuits so you can enjoy a little family time in the evening. It will give your kids—who will probably love ArtPrize but may tire more easily than you—an extra incentive to get through the day peacefully.

7. Smartphone. If you use one, bring it. If you’re visiting during the first 10 days of the competition, when you can vote for everything you like, having a smartphone allows you to vote “this one!” the minute something catches your fancy. If you prefer, you can haul an iPad along, but see our above recommendation about backpacks and cameras—lighter is better. However, if you’re staying in a hotel you may want to keep your iPad there so you can transfer photos to it later in the evening. Then, kids and adults can flip back and forth between favorites and discuss why you like, or don’t like, a particular piece.


Cities Departure and Deviation by Norwood Vivano, ArtPrize 2012

8. Map it. We mentioned this in our last post about ArtPrize but it bears repeating: attend ArtPrize with a plan. Your first stop should be an ArtPrize voting site where you can get an ArtPrize map (they’re free). There are over 1,500 exhibits displayed in 169 venues, which are grouped by 5 city neighborhoods: Center City, Hillside, Heartside, Westside and Monroe North/Belknap. An additional venue is Meijer Gardens, which is located a few miles outside of the downtown area, and you’ll be able to see 25 entries on display there this year. I’d strongly recommend splurging $5 for the ArtPrize Event Guide (which you can also get at voting sites). It includes a map but also suggests 5 different walking tours of ArtPrize. Each tour takes you through art in one of the 5 neighborhoods. The walks are about 1-2 miles long and paths will be clearly marked on the pavement.

9. Get the app. ArtPrize has its very own mobile app. If you use a smartphone, it’s available for both the iPhone or Android. By using the mobile app, you can skip the lines that queue up to register to vote. The geo-location feature in the app allows you to activate your voter account as soon as you enter the ArtPrize district in downtown Grand Rapids. You can also search for entries, artists, and venues, and connect to Facebook with just one click.

10. Be original. It’s impossible to see every ArtPrize entry in a day or two. As you look at your map and set your course, be sure to make time to see the most popular entries. But don’t be too set in your ways. ArtPrize is all about discovery–leave time to veer off the beaten path so you’re sure to find the art that speaks to you.

Click here to check out our first post in the “Get Ready for ArtPrize” series.

Click here for our second post in the “Get Ready for ArtPrize” series.

Kirsetin Morello is a writer, author, and blogger who’s called Grand Rapids home for more than a decade.  She’s enthusiastic about yoga, basketball and travel, and is a reluctant runner. Kirsetin, her husband, and their three children love to explore everything West Michigan has to offer. You can find her online at