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Making My Way Through ArtPrize

The whole town is a buzz with ArtPrize.  I meandered downtown to check it out  recently at night.  It felt a little bit like Halloween as my friend and I wandered around looking for treats….only visual treats instead of sweets.

We checked out the Hub–former UICA building, reinvented now as the center for all things ArtPrize.  Last year’s winner hangs proudly.

Couldn’t miss the whimsical figures in the front of the Children’s Museum marching along the sidewalk.   Colorfully painted.  Mirrored Faces. Love the spirit.







I also loved Site-Lab in the old JA building.  It was packed with volunteers wearing identifying blue t shirts guiding us around the building to the sound of pulsating urban music.  Felt like I was in meatpacking district in Chicago or SoHo in NYC.  Hip, urban.  Cool.  Loved the vibe.

I also loved looking out the window on an upper floor, seeing all the activity on the street.  ArtPrize is so good for Grand Rapids.   Be sure to go upstairs and see the installation and look at the ArtPrize scene.

Tom Clinton, one of the organizers said  they were doing fewer but really big pieces  this year…and BIG they are.  One piece extends from the murky basement to a hole in the roof.

Clearly too big to photograph.

The one that grabbed my imagination  was a hanging piece, swaying and swirling, attached by the Internet to the activity of a buoy in the ocean.  When the buoy bobs, so do the squares and undulating shapes.  As sailors, my husband and I religiously track the buoys in Lake Michigan on the Noah web site.  Gives us an idea whether we want to take the boat out or not.  Fascinating to see another application of this mainstay of our summer lives.

Don’t miss going to the very back of the basement to see a really interesting light installation.  At first I thought they were strings of lights and then I realized they were lights reflecting on string……. well actually elastic strings. It is an eerie presentation of light and dark, shape and line.  It was interesting to stand there a bit and watch how the scene changed as my eyes adjusted.  Don’t miss this one. It is called Apparition.

We popped into UICA.  Fun to go back and see the huge hanging piece in the ceramic studio completed and the long mural along the front wall blazing forth.  Both were in progress when I was there the week before.  Also enjoyed the helmets,again.  If you haven’t been there, you need to go.

Have to report.  Most of the Buddhas on  the front window were gone.  Snagged one and installed a piece of construction equipment on these street around the corner and snapped this photo.  Before we even got down the block, someone else took it….it is truly a traveling Buddha.   To learn about this project go to or read about it  here.

Meandering around town, we popped into a couple of store fronts.  Fun to see so many  people out and about.  But my fav was the Kendall College of Art and Design entries.

Jonathan Brilliant sculpture is not to be missed.  He constructed a mammoth sculpture out of 7,000 coffee stirrers with out a drop of glue. He says he likes to work with “found” objects and since the coffee shop is his natural habitat, he “found” stirrers to work with.  Fascinating.










But I loved even more the felted fabric figures.  Stunning. Absolutely stunning.  I was only sorry they were in such a small space.  Seem to me to need more space to breathe.

The huge series of Japanese scenes of daily life, painted wood block style is also a joy.   I needed a little time to “read” the graphic novel depicting a ball of garbage.  It is graphically interesting, well done and communicates a poignant message.

After Kendall, we headed down Fountain where we popped into Fountain Street  Church.     Every piece communicates some kind of loud message.

The most liberal church in town lives up to its reputation.  My favorite here is actually a piece done by a staff member at Kendall.  Brenda Sipe runs the Continuing Studies department.  Her “Sing” is a lovely piece  I found intriguing and made we wish I had a space to hang it at my house.  Would enjoy.

The last stop of the night–St. Cecilia.  Much of the art has a, guess what?

Ta-da! A Music theme.  Lots of it.  I suspect this made curating  their selection easier.  Sculptures, musical instruments, images of orchestras.  How intriguing to see the sounds they have promoted and provide Grand Rapids with for some many years reflected in their ArtPrize choices.

They also have a series of free concerts and a listening room, perfect for when the visual stimulation gets to be too much.

Close your eyes and listen to the music.  Ahhhhhh.


Post Author
Susan J. Smith
Susan's career includes writing for newspapers, lots of community work and a wonderful family life. Now she is enjoying traveling, photography and writing for DesignDestinations and Grand Rapids Magazine. She welcomes you on her journey and appreciates your comments.


  1. posted by
    Sep 26, 2011 Reply

    Thanks for sharing . . . heading down later this week and will use some of your wanderings as my guide. 

  2. posted by
    Kate D.
    Sep 27, 2011 Reply

    The felted pieces are NOT to be missed (at Kendall). The amount of work… and the effect… Amazing. As is the coffee stirrer room.

    Still need to get down to Cathedral Square, which seems to have a lot of Top 25 pieces. So much art! So little time!

  3. posted by
    Sep 27, 2011 Reply

    Fun to re-live our ArtPrize walk again through your blog photos, Susan. As always, you summed it all up so well.

    • posted by
      Sep 27, 2011 Reply

      Thanks, Margaret,
      We had a good time didn’t we? 

  4. posted by
    Sep 27, 2011 Reply

    I, too, loved the felted fabric ensembles at Kendall and agree that they need more space. Would be fun to imagine the space that would do them justice!

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