ArtPrize 2017: world-views and winners

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A VARIETY OF MEDIUMS — The pieces of art shown throughout Grand Rapids used all sorts of materials, such as the textbook pages seen in Chris Vitiello’s “The Language is Asleep,” shown above left. (Kelly Ocock)

For the ninth year in a row, downtown Grand Rapids is alive from Sept. 20 to Oct. 8 for the world’s largest art competition known as Artprize. While there are $500,000 dollars awarded in prizes based on both public and designated juror votes, the event goes past competition and seeks to help establish an appreciation for local artists. In no way does this mean Artprize isn’t widespread, for they take sub- missions from anywhere around the world. There are over 200 venues where the competition is dispersed throughout Grand Rapids, leaving it up to viewers to find each artistic treasure. Since the artists are encouraged to use the city as their canvas, look for art incorporated into the landscape, coffee shops, The Grand River, laundromats and parks. This makes meandering city blocks amongst the swarm of 26,000 daily visitors a reward- ing challenge.

It can be especially interesting to talk to the artists or read about their pieces online at Emily Mayo, is the young artist of a beautiful charred wooden sculpture she salvaged from her childhood home after a house fire. Her piece, Kaphar, was her way of striving to turn the tragedy of a burnt-down house into a representation of the human condition and our longing for redemption.

Artist Chris Vitiello covered the walls and floors of his own display room with excerpts of poetry for his piece, “The Language Is Asleep.” In Vitiello’s artist profile he admitted that after years of writing in solidarity he wanted nothing more than to share his work with as many people as possible. For this very reason he insisted every person who saw his work leave with one of his poems.

Mayo and Vitiello are not alone in using their art to persuade and represent things they are passionate about. In fact, most of the pieces were designed to provoke discussion about how they relate to their audiences and how they represent prevalent issues. Some made arguments of their political views or their emotional states, while others brought a fun, light mood to their pieces for viewers. This diversity of topics and mediums is what makes ArtPrize such a learning environment for all kinds of students and families. Immersing oneself in the world of art is an important way to expand on worldview perspectives.

This year’s winner of the Public Vote Grand Prize was a large-scale portrait of Abraham Lincoln made out of pennies by Richard Schlatter. The Juror’s Grand Prize went to a piece called “The Heartside Community Meal” and seated 250 members at a long table for a fresh, locally-made meal. Other winners were “Red Dirt Rug Monument,” “Oil + Water” (featured in the Grand River), “Flint” and “Sofia Draws Everyday.” Al- though ArtPrize has concluded its 2017 competition, put a trip to ArtPrize on your to-do list next year. For more details about visiting, viewing past winners or entering next year’s competition, visit

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