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Do Good: Heartside Artists’ “Unchain the Neighborhood” makes ArtPrize’s Top 5 Juried Shortlist

Co-executive editor of ARTnews, Andrew Russeth, came to Grand Rapids for ArtPrize on a mission: to challenge people to look more deeply at some of the artwork on display, and to help steer conversation around how art, cities, and audiences interact. As the juror of 2-dimensional work, Russeth was charged with the task of selecting the winners in that category. He had plenty to say in his article about the “best-funded art award in the United States.”
 
Jerrilynn Anderson

This year, 15 Heartside Arts Collective artists banded together to create a collaborative ArtPrize entry entitled “Unchain the Neighborhood.” Artists Jane VanDommelen, Cory Ruiz, Tom Salazar, Todd Rothley, Mike L. Take, Mike Katerberg, Paula J. Clark, Annette Gray, Javanna Bagley, Wendy Smith, Denis Burkett, Bertha Ramirez Zamora, Scott Robinson, and Jerrilynn Anderson all collaborated on the entry.
And then, further down the article’s page, Russeth raved about the Heartside Arts Collective’s entry, “Unchain the Neighborhood.”

“Most of the work I selected was by professional artists—people who had shown at institutions elsewhere,” says Russeth, “but I’d also come across the city’s action-packed Heartside Art Studio, which provides working space to all comers in the economically tenuous area and had organized a collective show of gutsy, emotional paintings and ceramics called ‘Unchain the Neighborhood.’

“Javanna Bagley made an elegant, Ralston Crawford-style painted scene of a highway underpass. Mike Katerberg had a wood relief that showed a muscled man, breaking chains that held him in bondage.

“That show was alone worth the trip,” he wrote in ARTnews.

“It is so nice to be noticed by folks, because we are generally overlooked,” says Sarah Scott, art coordinator for Heartside Artists Collective. “The response has been amazing. Regardless if we win or not, it’s a wonderful experience. All walks of life can understand our art.”

ArtPrize selects jurors based on their knowledge and expertise in their given category, as well as their contribution to critical art discourse or curatorial practice. Each juror addresses through their own work significant issues central to the ArtPrize idea—how contemporary art engages new audiences, the shifting landscape of the art world in response to technology, and the interaction and impact of art in urban spaces. Source.

For more than 20 years, the Heartside Arts Collective, (48 S. Division Ave., Grand Rapids), has offered a place for artists of all ages, financial means, and physical and mental ability the freedom to spontaneously express their creativity, ideas, emotions, and the spirituality of the neighborhood. The mostly self-taught artists use various mediums, such as fiber, collage, paint, woodwork, and more.

And during those 20-plus years, Heartside residents have borne witness to many changes in their neighborhood, the most obvious of which, gentrification, has pushed out long-term, disenfranchised residents. Their voices are drowned out by the noise of progress, and it is difficult, if not impossible, to share their experiences with their new neighbors in terms that the newcomers can understand—many of the privileged class are oblivious to the changing landscape’s effect on long-term residents and homeless folks.

Enter ArtPrize, the “open playfield” art competition where winners in early years were determined by public vote. Heartside artists became excited at the prospect of getting their messages out there.

But there was a big problem: As a general rule, the most successful ArtPrize entries of yore were huge and located in high-profile venues in heavily trafficked areas. And the public can be very fickle, indeed. Artists from the collective had entered work in ArtPrize before, but their last venue was off the beaten path and had very few viewers.

Then a few things conspired to even the playing field even more. The public vote remains intact, but there are now juried awards selected by highly respected denizens of the art world. And, there’s better transportation available to take folks to off-the-beaten track venues.

This year, 15 Heartside Arts Collective artists banded together to create a collaborative ArtPrize entry entitled, “Unchain the Neighborhood.” Artists Jane VanDommelen, Cory Ruiz, Tom Salazar, Todd Rothley, Mike L. Take, Mike Katerberg, Paula J. Clark, Annette Gray, Javanna Bagley, Wendy Smith, Denis Burkett, Bertha Ramirez Zamora, Scott Robinson, and Jerrilynn Anderson all collaborated on the entry.

“The piece represents the unheard experiences and stories by the artists who have expressed this theme in response to the ever-expanding and changing neighborhood they have been a part of for over 30 years,” says Scott, also an artist, who began working at Heartside in 1999 as an AmeriCorps volunteer. “Our experiences are expressed through the eyes of pain, joy, poverty, overcoming obstacles, diversity, freedom—or the lack of it.”

The Gallery began in 1993 as small offshoot of the nonprofit Heartside Ministry (54 S. Division Ave.). Since that time, the ministry has welcomed thousands of Heartside neighbors into a safe environment in which to create, exhibit, and sell artwork.

Artists in the studio come from a wide variety of backgrounds and experiences. Some are homeless, others are impaired by varying degrees of substance abuse, and some struggle with mental and physical health issues. Many are people from the neighborhood who simply wish to share their talents and expertise with their neighbors. Source.

“The program space is both a studio and a gallery,” says Scott. “The large storefront windows, high ceilings, and friendly atmosphere encourage artistic exploration.”

Jerrilynn Anderson, one of the Collective’s artists, says she has always made art, from childhood on. She works with fiber art and paint, as well as mixed media. When she started making art at Heartside 10 years ago, she was hesitant because she hadn’t been encouraged while growing up. Now she can confidently say that she’s an artist.

“Art helps me release emotions and to express things and experiences in my life,” Anderson says.

Heartside Gallery is open for special neighborhood and city functions (e.g. the monthly arts walk). “These often self-taught artists have produced a prolific and moving body of work, spanning various mediums, styles, and subject matters," says Scott. “I work to encourage the intuitive and spontaneous artistic tendencies within each individual artist.”

Heartside Gallery is open Monday through Friday from 9:00am to 3:30pm, and the space is open to the public for creating, learning, gathering, browsing, and commerce.

Get involved:
  • Visit the gallery and buy art! Most pieces are priced between $10 and $40, and proceeds benefit the individual artist. The ministry receives 26 percent of the proceeds, which it uses to help pay for the artist’s free supplies. The remaining proceeds go to the artist.
     
  • Participate! Everyone is welcome to visit the studio and gallery space—feel free to create, make friends or pick up a unique gift. You don’t have to be a Heartside resident to join in the fun.
     
  • Buy the book, Irregular Heartbeat, which features the works of 32 Heartside artists. It’s available at UICA and Heartside. And on Amazon.com.
     
  • Volunteer
     
  • Donate
Victoria Mullen is the Do Good editor for Rapid Growth Media.

Images by Adam Bird



 
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