A 2013 ArtPrize submission called "Kaleidoscopic" by Amanda Browder. (Experience Grand Rapids via Facebook)
A 2013 ArtPrize submission called "Kaleidoscopic" by Amanda Browder. (Experience Grand Rapids via Facebook)

ArtPrize in Grand Rapids is a cherished time to soak in some of the finest contemporary art on the planet. This year’s competition lasts 18 days—but some of the best submissions from years past can be found on display all year round across Grand Rapids. 

MICHIGAN—Grand Rapids has a penchant for creativity—evident from its status as both Beer City and Furniture City, USA. But every year, this theme goes into overdrive for ArtPrize, the world’s largest open art competition.

This year’s event runs Sept. 15 to Oct. 2.

During the highly anticipated 18-day competition, more than 400,000 people are expected to flock to downtown Grand Rapids to witness the spectacle of art, where any adult can enter, any property owner in the city can volunteer to serve as a venue, everyone has a vote—and the creator of the most popular piece of art gets to walk away with a cool, $250,000 prize 

More than 1,000 artistic works are set to be featured this year—adding to the millions who have participated since the competition launched in 2009. Many of those past entries have gone on to become permanent fixtures across the city, and they’re on display all year long. 

Here are some of the best:

Imagine That! (2009)

(photoshoparama via flickr.com)

Location: Grand Rapids Children’s Museum

Author: Tracy Van Duinen

Imagine That! is a 100 foot-long mosaic affixed to the exterior of the Grand Rapids Children’s Museum. More than 300 volunteers assisted Van Duinen with the creation, which celebrates imagination and creativity and serves as a reminder to nurture the talents of young children.

Read more—here

Open Water No. 24 (2009)

(artPrize.org)

Location: Reserve Wine and Food

Author: Ran Ortner

Open Water No. 24 was so popular that ArtPrize organizers had to have it for themselves. This huge oil painting—which won the inaugural ArtPrize competition—features water and waves, and stretches over 19 feet long. The wealthy DeVos family now owns the artwork, and it rests above the bar at Reserve Wine and Food, which is also owned by the DeVos’. Ortner calls the painting “accessible,” and said he was inspired by a desire to reach others.

Read more—here

Schematic in Two Parts (2011)

(pyramidschemebar.com)

Location: Pyramid Scheme

Author: Erwin Erkfitz and Jeff Vandenberg

Schematic in Two Parts is a collaborative piece between artist Erwin Erkfitz and his partner Jeff Vandenberg, the owner of the Pyramid Scheme where the mural is located. Using two connected murals measuring 36 feet wide, the art contains bold lines and bright colors depicting references to spiritual cultures and “meeting in the middle” in regard to religion.

Read more—here.

Metaphorest (2011)

(sportsmosaic via flickr.com)

Title: West Michigan Center for Arts and Technology 

Author: Tracy Van Duinen

ArtPrize Year: 2011

Metaphorest was produced as a large-scale public artwork with the WMCAT’s faculty, staff, and students. The mural depicts a large, mirrored face—with three-dimensional influences scattered throughout the piece. It’s designed to serve as a tribute to the power of the arts.

Read more—here.

G-Rap Map (2013)

(theovoss973 via LocalWiki)

Location: The Apartment Lounge

Author: Justin Smith

This labyrinth of a mural is designed as a graphic representation of the city of Grand Rapids. The art integrates with technology by using Layar Viewer—an app that allows the mural’s painted white spots to spring to digital life, and transform into 3D images on your screen.

Read more—here.

Grand River Fish Petroglyph (2014)

(artprize.org)

Location: Grand Rapids Public Museum

Author: Kevin Sudeith

This artwork is a celebration of Michigan fish. Sudeith carved 20 different native species into giant boulders, including lake trout, sturgeon, and Northern pike. Rocks have told stories for centuries. And Sudeith chose fish because they help tell some of the story of Grand Rapids. 

Read more—here

Allegory of the Muse (2014)

(Experience Grand Rapids via Facebook)

Location: HNI Risk Services of Michigan

Author: Michael J. Mayosky

This mural was created for people “who think outside the box.” Mayosky said he was heavily inspired by the creative community of the Grand Rapids community, where the city itself served as his eponymous “muse.” The mural is now at HNI, located near Rosa Parks Circle.

Read more—here.

Untitled (2016)

(theovoss973 via LocalWiki)

Location: Grand Rapids Ballet

Author: Louise “Ouizi” Chen

Chen—a prolific mural artist based in Detroit—created this expansive floral mural as part of the Exit Space Project from the Urban Institute for Contemporary Arts, a public art initiative. 

Read more—here

Community ArtPrize Mural (2016)

(artprize.org)

Location: Cottage Bar

Author: Andee Rudloff

This mural was inspired by the graffiti art of Keith Haring, and incorporates images designed to remind people of both Grand Rapids and the ArtPrize competition. Rudloff invited supporters, sponsors, and ArtPrize members and community organizations to help paint it. 

Read more—here. Watch a timelapse of the mural’s creation—here