Now in its ninth year, ArtPrize continues to grow in both size and scope, drawing more than 500,000 visitors to downtown Grand Rapids. And with hundreds of artists showcasing their work in dozens of venues throughout the city, it certainly feels larger than life during its 19-day run.
Last year, the folks behind ArtPrize decided they wanted to increase the number of larger, outdoor pieces at the festival. They launched the Featured Public Projects program, which provides grant funds to artists for those larger installations. That program has expanded this year, awarding funds to five different projects from across the country. One of those recipients is even local.
“One that I’m really excited about is A.J. Paschka,” said Katie Moore, exhibitions manager for ArtPrize. “He is a Grand Rapids native, which is really fun, and the only Grand Rapids native to get one of our Featured Public Projects this year. He’s doing lasers into the river (and) shooting lasers all across Grand Rapids at night. It’s the first time we’ve had something on that level that’s just taking over the downtown every single night.”
Also on the river: a literal flaming carnival.
“Richard App has something called Captain Nemo’s Flaming Carnival,” Moore said. “It’ll be this whole flaming carnival located next to the river. … There are traditional carnival games that incorporate flame, like flaming skee ball, and at night there will be these big flaming pieces down by the river.”
ArtPrize also partnered with Open Projector Night, an Urban Institute for Contemporary Arts program, to cast projections on the back of the police department. Moore said she’s very excited about some of these nighttime-specific works and hopes it will bring even more people downtown during the later, darker hours.
Of course, art isn’t all about flash and dazzle. Much of it draws on feelings and emotions, or even touches on significant societal issues.
“The other one that I’m excited about in the river is the Safety Orange Swimmers,” Moore said. “It’s a conversation about immigration. It represents one million immigrants involved in the global refugee crisis. That will be a pretty impactful piece that’s obviously relevant to the current global climate. People want something awe-inspiring and eye-catching, and so I love work that has that element visually but also has a message.
“I feel like we’ve finally gotten to a place where we’ve nailed down outdoor art.”
Downtown Grand Rapids
Sept. 20–Oct. 8