Monday, 25 August 2014 15:24

ArtPrize Collaborators Extend Far and Wide

Written by  Kerri VanderHoff
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Chris Protas Chris Protas

There's a group of Grand Haven artists living and working bi-coastal - that is the West Coast of Michigan and New York City. Tell us a little about your group and how and why that came about.

Tyler Loftis, who is originally from here and a founder of our group in NYC, Painting In New York, had a vision years before ArtPrize that it would be extremely important to show work and interact here. Some of us even moved here. So when ArtPrize came along it almost kind of weirded us out. It was quite a validation for his vision and our belief in this area as a place for art. A year later a Grand Haven business owner started Artwalk.

You expanded even further into ArtPrize by organizing the participation and transportation of art by several established artists currently living and working in New York City. What motivated this?

A big part of Tyler's original vision is that this area is ready to become more of a place for art. We were more excited to show the New Yorkers how cool it is here, rather than the other way around. It demonstrated that these established and famous NY artists working in the highest realms of the "fine" art world fit in here. Plus, just superficially speaking, I like to mix what I see as NY's hyper-educated approach with Michigan's salt-of-the-earth approach; they can both be their own forms of elitism as well as strengths. I think they round each other off.

One of those works won a coveted jury prize. Why do you think it stood out to the judges?

It was an amazing outcome, we were really grateful. The piece was "Europa and the Flying Fish" at GRBC (Grand Rapids Brewing Company) by Kyle Staver. It's a piece that contains a lot of the visual language artists use to create a convincing picture. It contains more than just tone and interesting line work. She juggled a lot of balls at the same time and made it look easy. Well, that's what I would have said anyway, you may have to ask (jurist) John Yau.

How else have you participated or collaborated with ArtPrize, directly or indirectly and do you have plans for future ways to integrate?

I've invited Annmarie Erickson, vice president of the Detroit Institute of Arts, to speak at Artwalk on Oct. 9. I'm inviting the leaders in West Michigan's art community to that event, and that of course includes ArtPrize, GRAM, UICA, Kendall, Muskegon Museum of Art and many others. Last year, we were honored to have Todd Herring, ArtPrize's communications and marketing director, as our keynote speaker. ArtPrize also produced a badge to indicate participation in both ArtPrize and Artwalk, which they've agreed to do again this year. They've been very open to collaboration.

What do you think of ArtPrize in general? How do your invited artists from NYC approach ArtPrize in their way of thinking?

In general, the idea is genius. It creates conversations about art among the general public where perhaps there was none or very little prior. In my opinion, that's the way to evolve culturally; just put the work out there, a lot and consistently. The viewer and the artist slowly evolve together and become ever more sophisticated. By sophisticated, I don't refer to education or any specific kind of knowledge, just deeper understanding through exposure, and that's very personal. For the New Yorkers, I think it breaks open their conversation. You can get used to what it feels like to talk about art in a certain way. ArtPrize challenges that by including so many different kinds of art and artists. Also, the humility here is very contagious. My ego has been whipped into shape a bit coming here from NYC. I love it, my work has improved a lot. At least I think so.

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