When Grand Rapids musician Molly Bouwsma-Schultz told people about the song she entered in ArtPrize last year, the response was often the same.
“Half of the time when I would tell people about the piece they would say, ‘Oh, I didn’t know music was a category.’ So then I had to explain that to them instead of talking about the song or what I’m about and what I do,” said Bouwsma-Schultz, who won the $2,000 St. Cecilia Music Center (SCMC) award in rock/blues for her song, "In my Heart (To the Moon)."
However, changes to this year’s voting structure will increase the visibility of musical acts in the time-based category, and may give artists like Bouwsma-Schultz and the other 85 musical acts entered in this year’s competition a real shot at winning one of the juried or public awards.
“We hope there is more diversity in the public vote final round just in terms of the mediums that are represented there,” said Todd Herring, director of communications for ArtPrize. “Music falls squarely into time-based work and so because of that, a lot of times, time-based works didn’t necessarily get into the final round. So, this year there’s a guarantee of five time-based works that will make it into the second round of voting for the public consideration.”
Instead of having a “Top 10” overall vote, ArtPrize will now have a “Final 20,” which includes the top five entries from each of the four artistic categories of 2-D, 3-D, installation and time-based works. Combined with an increased number of musical busking stations, which are outdoor stages for musicians to perform at during the first two weeks of ArtPrize, musicians have more opportunities than before to garner public interest.
“ArtPrize gives a very urban art experience,” Herring said. “So, having musicians that are presenting their work for consideration in the form of busking, in our opinion, gives them more opportunity and elevates what they are doing.”
As ArtPrize’s official “music hub,” SCMC will remain unchanged, said Executive Director Catherine Holbrook. Inside SCMC there will still be listening stations and live performances in the President’s Room for the first two weeks of the competition. New, however, is the addition of more busking stations, which will allow for more musicians to perform live in clear view of the public before the first round of votes are cast.
“It’ll increase the exposure musicians have in terms of the public realizing music is part of ArtPrize and they can vote for songs, they can vote for musical artists,” Holbrook said.
This means ArtPrize musicians not only have a chance at winning the $2,000 SCMC award in their genre, but also one of the $20,000 juried or public time-based category awards.
“Just hearing that, I feel a lot better,” said Dutcher Snedeker, who was part of SCMC’s winning jazz group Brad Fritcher + trios last year.
Despite St. Cecilia's efforts at giving the music medium a place in the ArtPrize spectrum, it’s that feeling of being lesser that musicians seem to have struggled with most.
“It kind of felt like, there’s this distinction of 'Here’s ArtPrize and here’s the local music award,'” Snedeker said. “While it was really nice to have St. Cecilia’s invest in local artists ... to be entered in the larger prize and to be recognized with other visual artists definitely shows that music isn’t just a nice little topping to ArtPrize.”
Snedeker is entering the competition under his own name as a solo act this year, featuring a new piano tune called “Foolin’,” which can be found on the recently released Brad Fritcher + trios album recorded with SCMC prize money.
“I like that ArtPrize is realizing that although music might not be as as staggering or have the visual impact of a huge sculpture, it still can move people emotionally and provide some sort of connection with what’s being created,” Snedeker said.