Artists reflect on ArtPrize 2013

OSCEOLA COUNTY — Local artists who competed in this year’s ArtPrize competition in Grand Rapids found inspiration and positivity during the event that lasted from Sept. 18 through Oct. 6.

Seven artists from Osceola and Mecosta counties showed off their talent in indoor and outdoor spaces using varying mediums ranging from wood, paint, metal and more. Nearly 450,000 votes were cast this year, with both art critics and the public choosing their favorite pieces.

Morley resident Cheryl Gould entered her paintings, “Michigan Native Wildflowers,” which were placed at Fifth Third Bank. She said she was happy with the event and the exposure she gained from entering.

“It was wonderful,” Gould said. “I would do it again. It was a good, positive experience.”

Gould spent more time in the city during the competition this year than she had before, and was surprised by the thousands in attendance on the weekend versus weekdays.

Glen Van Antwerp, of Tustin, entered ArtPrize with his mobile called “Migration,” which could be seen at the Grand Woods Lounge. Besides enjoying being a part of the event, he liked to see the wide variety of art styles, sizes and mediums.

“I think it’s quite a marvelous experience,” Van Antwerp said. “The venue was welcoming and I think it showed off my piece well.”

As he walked around the city himself, he was able to meet fellow artists and ArtPrize attendees who stopped to see his mobile. The responses he received were more than friendly, he said.

“People were blown away,” he added. “It was very gratifying that they were so positive.”

Stanwood artist Robert Routley was automatically entered into ArtPrize after winning one of three top spots through the Artists Creating Together competition that took place in April. Though he hadn’t expected to participate in ArtPrize, it proved to be icing on the cake.

“I was just really impressed with what was there,” Routley said. “It was great and it was fun meeting other artists from across the country. I’ll probably go down there every year now just to look.”

Being able to show his artwork was more fun than competing, he said, noting the opportunity to do so gave him confidence.

His piece, “Life Continues,” was located at the Amway Grand Plaza Hotel, where Routley had the opportunity to interact with and educate hundreds of people who were unaware of the art of wood burning and staining. Now, the piece is in the process of being sold.

Julie McDonough, of Canadian Lakes, entered her metal and glass piece called “Freedom” into this year’s ArtPrize. The sculpture was located at the B.O.B., which is one of the most visited venues during the three-week period. While she was thankful for the amount of traffic in the area, she learned she was not in the best location to display her work.

“The B.O.B. is a good venue, but it was not the right venue for my piece,” McDonough said. “I think the piece got lost there because there was too much in one space. I think it would have looked better at the Henry Ford Museum.”

Aside from the location, she enjoyed the event as a whole and thought it was put together well. She spent nearly two weeks in downtown Grand Rapids, raising awareness for America’s wild horses in captivity and being removed from their natural habitat for ranching purposes.

“That was my main goal, and I feel I was successful,” McDonough added. “It’s still a positive experience, because it’s about the indirect outcomes and getting your work out there.”

Although each artist enjoyed what ArtPrize offered, many described something they might change about the competition or aspects of their own entry if they were to participate again.

“I would try to get an earlier start and lobby harder for the higher-traffic venues,” Van Antwerp said. “Also, if I were running the thing, I would have the guidebooks list how many pieces are at each venue.”

Routley said he had a hard time finding where all of the venues were outside of the heart of the city’s downtown.

Each said they are thinking about entering again, but may not until 2015. Gould, Van Antwerp, Routley and McDonough also listed a few of their favorite pieces from this year, including “River of Light,” “Steam Baby,” “UPlifting” and “Polar Express.”

Besides tweaking a few details, ArtPrize gave each artist the chance to display their talents to tens of thousands of people, become inspired by other artists’ work and enjoy being a part of the world’s largest art competition. They said ArtPrize is a win-win situation for all artists because it is a cheap entering fee and provides an opportunity for the individual and art to get noticed on a large scale.

Routley said although the experience of ArtPrize can be overwhelming, artists should put entering on their to-do list.

“I think anybody who is an artist should at least try it once,” he said.

Gould agreed.

“I encourage any local artist to give it a try,” she said. “It’s an experience not to miss.”