ArtPrize: Best of the Best Bets

Event Opening: Wednesday, Sept. 23 (through Oct. 11)
ArtPrize may not perform miracles, cure your cold or help you levitate over the crowds to get that unobstructed view of a must-see artwork. But at year seven, it’s still pretty amazing to watch thousands of folks armed with a smartphone line up outside more than 160 venues for the opportunity to play “God of the Art World” and assume the role of art critic.
Admit it: if you are like me, the high brow stuff motivates you just about as much as the bat-out-of-hell crazy entries a festival with a big booty so often attracts in this world.
G-Sync Event’s recommendations are based on early reviews, friends’ suggestions, and of course, the razor sharp fun of trying to steal a look.
Best High Art Experience: It should come as no shock that the sites like SiTE:LAB, UICA, GRAM, KCAD, and Meijer Gardens all deliver based on reputation built up over the years, but don’t miss Western Michigan’s collection of art with a nod to literature including a showing of Proust Toast. (LINK:
Hot Trend: Time-Based works. And three you should venture to see include Emily Kennerk’s Whisper (250 Monroe at 250 Monroe Ave.), Borja + Toscani’s giant Constructing on Deconstructing piñata (250 Monroe at 250 Monroe Ave.), and Joseph Wilcox’s Your Neighbor's Bowl - a look at the act of being generous with those around us in need. This interactive piece is set up at Bagger Dave’s on Fulton at Monroe.
Best Coffee Stop: Sure, we have coffee shops all over the city, but sometimes you will not want to stop your “ArtPrizing” pace. When the hankering takes hold, jump on the latest coffee trend and grab a Nitro cold brewed coffee from one of Direct Trade Coffee Club’s three trikes pedaling this new, highly addictive and dark-as-Guinness elixir.
Best Breakout Venue: It is not a secret that West Michigan is a hot spot for more than just beer tourism as evident by the fiber arts groups that make annual visits to Grand Rapids. ArtPrize 7 Curatorial Fellow Elizabeth Hertl capitalizes on this fact as she presents Processing Fiber at 250 Monroe, which will showcase just how remarkably flexible this art practice truly is.
Best Place to Toe-Tap After Dark: Any bar is a great place to land but this year a lot of noise will be coming from the pop-up venue The Eddy from Porter House on the East bank of the Grand River in the North Monroe Neighborhood.

Best Venue Devoted to Showcasing Diversity: Calder Plaza. (No magnets on the Calder this year.)
Best Place to Capture an Intriguing Selfie: It is not the butterfly wings that your mom and her friends will be sprouting – no, the best spot is the chance to geek out with old-style filters a-blazing in front of South Bend’s Charles Jevremovic’s massive vintage computer-inspired Technician 3 at UICA. Wings just sit on your back, but a computer….well, that is the future. (Tag #RapidGrowth with your best shot.)
Best Place to Bone Up on Art and Maybe Hang with an Arts Leader After: Attend any one of the ArtPrize Critical Discourse speaker events and you can be assured of deepening your understanding of art and how it is ever-evolving in our world. Truly one of my favorite parts of ArtPrize. To see the complete list of speakers (nearly 20+ now) visit ArtPrize’s Critical Discourse webpage.

Best Venue to Grab the Best Pizza in Downtown Grand Rapids: Big O's (and if you are lucky enough to be there on a Friday, order the "only offered on Friday's" Cuban Dinner.)
Best Chance to Build a Bridge of Empathy: Dégagé Ministries (Division Ave. & Cherry St.) will display the works of two patrons, Tony (last name not shared) and Danyette (last name not shared), who, under the assistance of artist and long-time volunteer Michelle Figueroa, set out to frame an image of our city not often seen. “See What I See” gives us an opportunity to view how these members of our society experience the city and hopefully bridge our worlds though the power of empathy.
“A lot of exhibitions are deeper and more challenging than we've seen in the past. GRAM's show is fun and funky at first, but it will also confront viewers with some intriguing and confusing stuff; it requires careful looking,” says ArtPrize Exhibition Director Kevin Buist. “UICA has a show organized around the senses, but this theme is far from didactic. SiTE:LAB is geographically removed from the action of center city, so viewers will have to seek out that experience. And Meijer Gardens features 25 artists from Japan working in ceramics with a variety of approaches that is stunning.”
However you choose to experience ArtPrize, try and enjoy it when you can or avoid it completely if it really bugs you. We all are many people with many views of the city. After October 11, when the art circus leaves town, you have 48 weeks of relative calm before the excitement returns to this level again.
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