Photo bomb challenges the politics of ArtPrize , with online campaign
Last year we posted a two-part piece on the political economy of ArtPrize. In part II, we identified ArtPrize sponsors, based on the 990 records they submitted to the federal government, which lists the ArtPrize budget, expenses and sponsors and how much they gave.
The article from last year talked about some of the sponsors and the hateful campaigns they have funded, particularly anti-LGBT campaigns.
Some of this funding has gone to support efforts to defeat marriage equality and domestic partner benefits or to religious groups, which preach that, “homosexuality is a sin.” Despite this kind of homophobic policy funding, I have seen nothing in writing or heard anyone discussing these issues while ArtPrize has been going on. Look at it this way, what if neo-Nazi groups or the KKK were sponsors of ArtPrize? Do you think there would be some discussion of this, maybe even rage? Do you think that the African American community and its allies would be avoiding or even calling for a boycott of ArtPrize? Sure seems likely. So why is it that when institutions that make it a priority to deny people who identify as LGBTQ their basic rights, why are people not outraged? Just because the foundations that fund anti-gay policies don’t wear white hoods, doesn’t mean they don’t do harm to vulnerable population.
Starting today, a group of local activists are now trying to shed light on the anti-LGBT funding from some of the ArtPrize sponsors. Using public information, the activists have found a few examples of anti-LGBT funding and are posting photos and information at a Facebook page called ArtLies.
For example, the Edgar & Elsa Prince Foundation gave $75,000 to the 2004 Anti-Gay Marriage Amendment in Michigan. Edgar and Elsa Prince are the parents of Erik Prince and Betsy DeVos. The Edgar & Elsa Prince Foundation gave $450,000 to California’s Prop 8 to ban Gay Marriage, in 2008.
The Richard and Helen DeVos Foundation donated $100,000 to the Florida4Marriage campaign in 2008, to defeat a campaign to get marriage equality in Florida.
More recently, the Doug & Maria DeVos Foundation donated $500,000 to the National Organization on Marriage for its efforts across the country to defeat Marriage Equality. This large amount of money to defeat Marriage Equality across the country has led to a campaign to Boycott Amway, since Doug DeVos is the current President.
In addition, the local activists pointed out with some signs in their visual campaign other funding issues with some of the ArtPrize sponsors. For example, Richard DeVos contributed $250,000 to Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker to defeat the recall campaign earlier this year, since Walked has been attacking working people and labor policies in that state.
Another issue one of the signs points to is the funding that the Dick and Betsy DeVos Foundation and the Edgar & Elsa Prince Foundation have given the Mackinac Center for Public Policy. The Mackinac Center is a far right think tank that supports Right to Work laws, privatizing public services, privatizing public education and deregulation of any restrictions put on the private sector by the state. The Dick & Betsy DeVos has given $80,000 between 2002 – 2009 to the Mackinac Center for Public Policy and the Edgar & Elsa Prince has provided $195,000 during the same time period.
Lastly, the activists point out in one sign that the Dick and Betsy DeVos foundation has contributed millions of dollars to promote the privatization of education, which undermines public education funding across the country. One researcher even refers to Betsy DeVos as the 4 – star general of the pro-school privatization movement.
In their photo bomb action today, some of the activists even stood next to one of the WOOD TV 8 signs by the Grand Rapids Art Museum, where the channel 8 station has been broadcasting live since ArtPrize began this year. They stood their with these illuminating signs about ArtPrize sponsors to make the point that commercial media in this community has ignored the politics of the ArtPrize sponsors.