ArtPrize 2014 brings inspiration to Grand Rapids
By Sarah Harmon
EW Emma’s Writings
What is art? Whether your preference is for painting, sculpture, photography, or performance, there is no better place in the world to answer that question than Grand Rapids during ArtPrize. For almost three weeks every fall, all of downtown transforms into the world’s biggest, and possibly most eclectic, art museum, and the best part is that seeing the art is completely free. In an age where budget cuts have forced schools to eliminate fine arts programs, it is incredible to watch hundreds of students be exposed to others’ artistic expressions and become inspired to create their own. ArtPrize Education Days offer free workshops where kids meet artists and explore their creative sides. This year, Top 20 artist, Kevin Sudeith, helped them to make prints using paint and paper applied directly to his “Grand River Fish Petroglyph” for one of the classes. He also explained that all of his installations are meant to be permanent, so his creation will be displayed near the river long after the competition ends.
“Reciprocity,” a 3D finalist featured in the Grand Rapids Art Museum, is a sculpture so lifelike, down to the wrinkles and veins in the men’s skin, that you expect them to move at any moment. On the other hand, Time Based finalist Robert Shangle performs as a living sculpture that upon first glance you would never guess wasn’t made of clay. He compared the stamina required for a day as a sculpture to running a marathon. Shangle was looking forward to cutting back on his performance hours when he was pleasantly surprised with being in the top 5.
We tend to forget that much of art has a far deeper purpose than just to be beautiful. It’s there to make us look inside ourselves, to see our own desires and passions reflected through someone else’s mirror, and sometimes to inspire us to create change. “Weave Peace,” outside the Public Museum, asks you to write a hope or a peaceful intention and tie it to the dome to join thousands of others. In stark contrast, “The Scarlet Cord,” near the Gerald R Ford Museum, discusses the horrors of sex trafficking. A related Scarlet Cord piece outside Propaganda Doughnuts encourages you to write a prayer on red ribbon and to exchange it for someone else’s prayer that touches your heart.
With its wide variety of mediums and subject matter, ArtPrize reminds us that anything, from the mundane to the fantastical, can become something beautiful and unique under the guidance of the right artist. Given the opportunity, the right piece of art can even change the world.
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