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Reporting on and Promoting ArtPrize

September 19, 2009

We are just days away from the official opening of the voting for ArtPrize, but to any reasonable observer it is clear that the local media coverage has already drawn a conclusion on the success or failure of the endeavor initiated by Rick DeVos.

While there have been a few stories that look into some of the challenges of ArtPrize, both logistical and the difficulties in voting process, the coverage has been overwhelmingly positive. Both WOOD TV 8 and WXMI 17 have online sections devoted to ArtPrize. WOOD radio provides a “how to guide” for those interested in ArtPrize, but the absolute winner in terms of adver-news for ArtPrize goes to the Grand Rapids Press. Not only do they have a major online section for the contest, they have been running a front-page feature on the days leading up to the opening.

Not to be outdone, the local blog-o-sphere has also been providing substantial coverage of this downtown art event. Rapid Growth Media is even providing space for Rick DeVos to blog this week so we can all learn more about his brainchild and even the new “citizen journalism” site, The Rapidian, seems to be flush with stories on ArtPrize.

However, some of the most honest reporting we have seen so far on ArtPrize , has been done by the Grand Rapids Business Journal. In a front-page story in their September 17 – 23 edition they discuss the economic promise of ArtPrize.

Reporter Mark Sanchez spoke with downtown business leaders to get their take on what the long term impact ArtPrize could have on Grand Rapids. The president of the Grand Rapids-Kent County Convention Center & Visitor’s Bureau was quoted as saying, “The positive buzz and the energy that is being created around ArtPrize is going to do things that traditional advertising could never do for me….I’m appreciative of the short-term economic push, because we all could dearly use it. I’m more excited about the viral effect and what it could do for our destination appeal.”

Jeff Ott with the law firm of Warner, Norcross & Judd talked about ArtPrize being a tool to recruit potential lawyers to this community, lawyers his law firm is seeking. “For us to attract these people, it is very important for us to sell our firm, but we also have to sell the cities where these people are going to live and work. ArtPrize is part of the total package. It helps us sell the city.”

Maybe the most revealing comment is from local property owner and managing partner of CWD Real Estate Sam Cummings. Cummings said, “Our long-term goal is really to import capital – intellectual capital, and ultimately real capital. And this (ArtPrize) is certainly an extraordinary tool.”

This is exactly the point I was making in my initial critique of ArtPrize, that it makes perfect business sense since it will bring more people downtown to spend money and to possibly invest in the ongoing gentrification that will benefit a small sector of the community.

8 Comments leave one →
  1. lucie fig permalink
    September 27, 2009 12:46 am

    it’s almost like the joker has infused the atmosphere of the city with laughing gas…. artprize has lured a local citizenry on the brink of disillusionment back into the cozy matrix of comfortable capitalism.

  2. Kate Wheeler permalink
    September 29, 2009 7:13 pm

    Lucie, your comment is so timely! I was just thinking that same thing today. The atmosphere downtown is like Disney World, and so many of the entries seem Disneyesque to me, too. I can’t help but think that some of these entrants have decided that the bigger and brighter their pieces are, the more votes they’ll attract.

    Meanwhile, beautiful Japanese-influenced woodblocks are being drowned out by gigantic metal flowers that appear to have been stolen from a theme-park ride…a kinetic sculpture in the river that was put together with great thought and deliberation about environmental issues is being mowed down by a giant Loch Ness monster…. and even some of the more playful but truly inventive works, like Tommy Allen’s homage to Brassai, “The Kissing Booth,” seem lost amid the hoopla, hot dog stands, and the ringing of cash registers. It’s a zoo.

    There are questions about art that have been debated for years, in much the same way that philosophers conduct dialogues across the centuries, with each response adding meaning to the issue. One of the major questions of art is, “What makes it art?” American artist Bruce Nauman said, “It is the intention that turns a staircase into a staircase as a work of art.”

    So what is the intention of any piece that’s been done merely to attract the most attention, win the most votes, and garner the biggest cash prize? And what, as you suggest, is the outcome for the rest of us in a contest that’s being put on not for art, but for business?


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