ArtPrize By the Years: The Good, The Bad, The Ugly


  • Vandalism became an unfortunate trend throughout every year, starting with Young Kim’s Piece Salt and Earth. Praised among the arts community, the piece was defaced by ArtPrize patrons interested in creating their own, technically lax, art in these stunning portraits made of granular salt and clay. To add insult to injury, Salt and Earth failed to advance to the top 10.

  • The Nessie Project was originally intended for installation on Reeds Lake as a prank, hoping to be the Banksy of lake monsters. When that didn't work, Nessie showed herself via the Grand River during ArtPrize and is now living the fabulous life in John Ball Park.

  • Bill Secunda’s Moose evoked a general “WTF?” as his life-size moose statue used welded nails as a medium and inspired future entries of weird-things-made-out-of-other-useless-things.

  • David Lubber’s installation on the Grand River gave us hope that art does exist with his kinetic sculpture, The Grand Dance. Animated by The Grand River, this sculpture pays tribute to our life-giving river. Bonus: It glows in the dark.


  • 2010 was the first year for Juried Awards, but instead of inspiring legitimate art, most entries just grew in size. The SteamPig Experiment became one such example. This giant landmark made Steam Punks poop their pants and turned ArtPrize into a whizzing contest in terms of intensity.

  • It's not enough to make a big penny made of other pennies. Make it spin, and ArtPrize puts you in the top 10. Helping Mom One Penny at a Time literally made ArtPrize your momma’s art contest.


  • Making an appearance in more than just your nightmares was President Gerald R. Ford Visits ArtPrize. This lifelike statue of President Ford admiring a bronze bust of himself was like being Paris Hilton in a meta version of House of Wax.

  • ArtPrize became more like JesusPrize with God Jr. popping up all over the place. There was a macho Jesus, bronze Jesus, bottle cap Jesus and then there were the Jesuses (what's the plural of Jesus? Jesi?) that were just the downright scary and indescribable. By the time it was announced that Mia Tavonatti’s mosaic, Crucifixion, won the top prize, we were all just really, really tired of Jesus.


  • ArtPrize 2012 grew infamous as Kalamazoo stunt artist SinGh’s entry was thrown in a dumpster before the competition began. His piece Captivity was intended as a political statement but failed miserably as most covered their faces in shame at what looked like Saddam Hussein hanging from a noose.

  • Light became a major source of influence in 2012. Kumi Yamashita’s Origami, a clever play on the Japanese art of paper folding, is an installation that featured 99 origami paper sheets to cast shadows of different facial profiles of the citizens of Grand Rapids. Correspondingly, Lights in the Night launched thousands of sky lanterns from harmonized points in the city, honoring Grand Rapids residents and guests.


  • 2013 became notorious for awkward moments. Head in the Clouds depicting legs floating from clouds hung in the interior stairwell at The BOB, and All ways=The Same Destination an installation of a cross formed by two caskets, installed almost directly underneath the prior, put a bad taste in some ArtPrizer’s mouths. Given the venue’s recent history, it was a little too topical.

  • A similarly awkward moment was presented when David Dodde’s Piece, Fleurs et Riviere was decommissioned from the contest. This temporary installation of magnetized flowers positioned on Alexander Calder’s La Grande Vitesse was meant as an homage to the artist. But like watching a bad break-up, the piece was taken down almost instantly upon the insistence of The Calder Foundation.
  • ZOMG!! Cat ladies rejoiced for the Cat Video Festival sponsored by Walker Art Center at ArtPrize this year. Featuring Maru, Lil’ Bub and Nyan cat, hearts melted and many likes were shared as crazy cat people gathered to watch Kittens Inspired by Kittens and many more.