Septembers became synonymous with celebration when my first perfectly round-headed child introduced herself and my Mom finally found Papa John, a man worthy of her, adored by us. Sharing a birthday, Round-Head and Papa John also share a bond, forged in hours of teasing, whining, love, and mutual admiration. When we celebrate it is still warm, usually sunny, and the last party before the snow flies. We laugh, still tease, sing Happy Birthday off-key, and feast. Papa John will eat pie and Round-Head will eat chocolate cake and some of us will indulge in both. These are the times we like to remember, the good times we will fall back on when we need a boost.
Another celebration of sorts is ArtPrize 2015, an international art contest held in September with over 1,500 entries at 162 venues centered around Grand Rapids, Michigan. ArtPrize offers accessibility with dozens of outdoor pieces, free venues and a unique voting process open to all attendees. The ArtPrize experience stretches my creativity, a story in each sculpture, song, film, projection, painting, and photograph. Other’s interpretations and feelings evoked by ArtPrize entries are part of the enjoyment, even the sarcastic ones. Inevitably, ArtPrize resonates with talk about what constitutes art and the varying messages each piece conveys.
Creativity spawned during ArtPrize will soon be put to good use as I put my garden to bed and spend more time indoors writing. October gardening intentions wither on cold damp days and by then the Sugar Maple’s bright leaves carpet the yard, begging to be piled and hauled away. Anything still standing in my garden after September lends interest and reminds me that there is a garden waiting for me underneath the snow. It’s all about perspective.
Michigan Apple Fest is the final village festival of the season, celebrating the local harvest of not only apples, but corn,melons, peaches, plums, pears, tomatoes, cabbage, peppers, potatoes, garlic, onions and a few others I may have forgotten. It is a land of plenty. Street vendors, antique tractors, cider, baked goods, a couch race, live music, craft beer and a ton of food lend to the party. It is a time of thanksgiving, as well as a last “Hoorah!” for our community. The morning air is cooler, the evening light is softer, and summer is at an end.
With over 1,500 pieces, ArtPrize 2011 lured me in for another look. This time I took my husband who is quite evolved for a Michigan outdoorsman, although not appreciative of the more abstract art forms, the pieces that you cannot exactly say what it is because it is something different to each viewer. So I plied him with a tasty lunch and a microbrew before we looked and then topped off our outing with one for the road at an Irish pub in Downtown Grand Rapids. Included in this post are a few more photos of some of the pieces we admired.
Now that the top ten have been chosen by voters throughout the community the art critics are complaining about some of the “amateurish” pieces and the entire voting process. How could common folk who have not been formally trained possibly know which are the best pieces? ArtPrize is advertised as a social experiment designed to promote connections between artists and the community (common folk) and inspire creative conversations. What I observed was families with children and classes of schoolchildren viewing the art downtown. Many of the people dressed in jeans and t-shirts and the price to get in to view the art was zilch. ArtPrize made art accessible, which is what most deserves an award. Kudos to Rick DeVos, the founder of ArtPrize, for his response to the critics’ assertion that ArtPrize lacks credibility in the art community, “I just want to see crazy crap all over Grand Rapids, and I think we’ve achieved that,” DeVos said. “The goal is not to find better art through voting. It’s not better art through democracy. The prize and the voting are really just mechanisms. It comes back to building a creative culture in West Michigan.”
ArtPrize is an annual arts festival and social experiment showcasing 1,582 artists in Grand Rapids, Michigan. The monetary awards are the largest in the world and the competition is decided solely on the general public’s electronic vote. The goal is for the community to explore new ideas and form relationships with the artists. I often think that the DeVos family just has too much damn money, yet am grateful for their philanthropy in my home, which is considered one of the most depressed states in the country.
I developed a taste for art in my 20’s. In my 30’s I began to step out of my impressionist comfort zone. In my 40’s I seek to find the vision of the artist, to understand the intended meaning of the work and incorporate it with my interpretation of a piece or performance. With this approach I have discovered the emotional facet of art, finding joy and haunting sadness in unexpected pieces that I was previously unready for. Including a friend in artistic excursions, I am gifted with a contrasting view that leaves me appreciative of what I gain from being open to other’s visions. Besides, I always laugh in the company of dear friends and there is no greater joy than that.