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)
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.
Open Water No. 24 (2009)
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.
Schematic in Two Parts (2011)
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.
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.
G-Rap Map (2013)
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.
Grand River Fish Petroglyph (2014)
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.
Allegory of the Muse (2014)
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.
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.
Community ArtPrize Mural (2016)
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.
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