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Is There Too Much Art at ArtPrize? (Spoiler: NO!)

Matt Milhouse TSM
Matt Milhouse TSM

ArtPrize has taken over Grand Rapids once again, but not everyone is happy about it. Those who don’t like the art competition offer a variety of sometimes-valid reasons, but the argument that ArtPrize has too much art is simply ridiculous.

There are 1,352 entries in ArtPrize this year. Want to see them all?

Good luck.

Even if you take a week off to do nothing but visit ArtPrize you’ll have trouble getting to all 179 venues. Not to mention all of the live musical performances, films and other time-based entries you’ll miss. It’s one thing to see a piece of art and an entirely different thing to take the time to understand and experience it.

Do all of the pieces deserve your time?

No. Definitely not. But it doesn’t mean those entries should be eliminated. ArtPrize gives new and skill-challenged artists a chance to show their work. If we are all lucky maybe the experience will help these artists to build some confidence, improve their craft and encourage other aspiring artists to do the same.

We want a world with more art, not less. You don’t have to go far to find a school teacher who will tell you the same thing.

The difference between art and eyesore is up for debate. That’s kind of the point. Even something crafted perfectly isn’t necessarily art. Or is it? These conversations have been going on for nine years now. Meanwhile, the public vote has gotten “better,” but it’s the venues who are ultimately responsible for the quality of the art. They are the gatekeepers.

There is no doubt some venues are better at the art of collecting art than others. Meijer GardensUICAGRAM, Western Michigan University – Grand Rapidsthe city water building by the richard app gallery and The Fed Galleries at KCAD (Kendall College of Art and Design) are among the best each year at ArtPrize.

See a theme here?

Naturally, the venues that work with art all year are better at curating art during ArtPrize, but there are many other venues worthy of a visit. Some of those are regular venues each year and some are new and undiscovered. Of course, there are many venues packed with entries that won’t challenge you, but sometimes those venues have a hidden gem too.

If you have a limited amount of time to explore ArtPrize visiting the venues mentioned above is a great place to start, but discovering those surprise venues and entries among the hundreds of others is part of the fun. As you explore, you’ll find art featuring great skill without substance and art with great substance without skill. Hopefully you’ll also find a strong combination of the two.

It’s like my golf game: triple bogey, triple bogey, par, triple bogey. The par keeps me coming back to hunt for a birdie, but I’ve got to go through a lot of bad shots to get there. It’s still worth it.

Yes, the volume of entries at ArtPrize is overwhelming and it contributes to frustrating results at times, but the open door policy for entries and venues is what makes ArtPrize different. It’s what keeps the public engaged and excites students, young artists and fans.

Does ArtPrize have too many pedestrians oblivious to street signs and common sense? Yes.

Too many artists who pander to voters? Yes.

Too much art? No way.

SiTE:LAB Presenting a Play During ArtPrize

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