Grand Rapids held its ArtPrize competition and the New York Times has decided to take a closer look at the excitement surrounding the small city:
No matter who wins, the 17-day competition has spurred a lively debate in Grand Rapids, a city of about 200,000 with a tradition of interest in art. It is home to several museums and a college of art and design.
“Every conversation I’ve had here for the past two weeks has been about art,” said Dustin Dwyer, a correspondent for Michigan Radio, a public radio network, who is based in Grand Rapids and has reported on the competition since its inception earlier this year. “From that perspective, it’s a success. But are we rewarding good art? That’s up for question.”
The competition’s creator, Rick Devos, a 27-year-old Web entrepreneur and a member of one of the city’s most prominent families, said he had shied away from judging the merits of the entries. “The first challenge is to get people to show up and get engaged,” he said.
If some found the quality poor, others were worried that too many good artists from outside Grand Rapids were coming in to take a shot at “their” prize:
Not everyone has been entirely impressed with ArtPrize. Deborah Rockman, a professor at Kendall College of Art and Design here, said she feared the competition could cast the wrong light on the talents of area artists. Her own entry, a series of drawings called “The Danger of Being Born” that depicted the faces of stillborn infants, was ranked among the 100 most popular works but was not a finalist.
“This community is potentially giving a quarter of a million dollars to what is potentially a weak work of art,” Ms. Rockman said. The competition had churned up “a lot of work that was based on spectacle,” she added.
“If it was bigger, it was better,” she continued. “If it was colorful, it was better; if it was entertainment, it was better.” Mr. Devos defended the wide range of work and the open voting system as preferable to a more restrictive method of appointed arbiters, in which “we choose 100 pieces of art and say, ‘Come look at them.’ ”
Eyes on the Prize (New York Times)