When I sat down with Rick DeVos a few days before the world would learn of ArtPrize for the first time, I asked him if he imagined more from this event. I was happy to learn that, beyond the economic activity (which no one could have predicted would be so big), he hoped ArtPrize would encourage other kinds of growth as well, especially collaborations that go beyond the art installations. One area that was still lacking until recently was the creative third-party, "the other," who could take advantage of the festival's shadow over our region.
During the first years, many were timid too produce anything and so they did nothing. Those few who attempted to present something complementary alongside such a large festival, like SXSW does with movies and music, went down in flames, such as the Prospecto Music Festival.
But that has not stopped folks from trying to cash in on the fun.
Finally, this year's ArtPrize has inspired one such offering that I think represents a perfect balance of good old-fashioned opportunity with a dash of placemaking: The Morton Tour – a new guided tour series devoted to the past, present and future of the historic Morton building in downtown Grand Rapids.
The added excitement is two-fold for this building. One reason is because this space is open for the first time to the public as a venue for SiTE:LAB, who always contributes a unique fingerprint to ArtPrize's typically finger-smudged presentations. With Rockford Construction waiting in the wings, the historic building is soon to undergo a new renovation, so this is the last time to see it as it is in the present.
The second reason is because in June 2014 Jim Winslow, a local historian with a BFA degree in studio art with a focus on graphic design and art education, started a new venture, Tour GR, offering insightful tours on various buildings and community spaces within our city. And it's Winslow's unique perspective that's shared in this particular tour.
"The Morton tour highlights the architectural features, presents the background on the building, and the story about the people that passed through its halls," says Winslow, who spent months in the building researching and preparing this tour. "The Morton tour is a walking one with a PowerPoint photo presentation on an iPad that follows the flow of the SiTE:LAB venue space as we share a bit about each of 12-13 spaces."
This is such a fine event because it expands upon the ArtPrize experience in the city in a building with a long history (and, hopefully, a bright future) in our city.
Admission: Tickets must be purchased in advance on the site and are $10.