Skip to content

When elites give money to each other: ArtPrize financials for 2010

November 16, 2011

We wrote last month a series of articles on ArtPrize, with an emphasis on the political economy of this downtown Grand Rapids spectacle.

In one article we shared information on the operating budget for the first year of ArtPrize, in 2009. In that first year of operation, the Dick and Betsy DeVos Foundation gave $1,700,000 to Rick DeVos’ desire to see “crazy stuff happen all over Grand Rapids.” We obtained this information by looking at the 990 documents that ArtPrize now has to file since it is a non-profit entity.

Just days ago we were able to obtain the 990 documents for 2010, which reveals even more about who is funding ArtPrize.

Here is a list of financial donors in 2010 that gave $10,000 or more:

Richard & Helen DeVos                                                       $100,000

PNC                                                                                                $100,000

Meijer Inc.                                                                                     $50,000

Doug & Maria DeVos                                                            $50,000

Dan & Pam DeVos                                                                        $50,000

Bob & Cheri Vanderweide                                                            $50,000

Steelcase                                                                                    $50,000

Amway Corporation                                                            $50,000

Haworth                                                                                    $35,000

Dave & Carol Van Andel Foundation                                    $35,000

Huntington National Bank                                                            $30,000

Frederick Meijer Gardens                                                            $30,000

Rockford Construction Company                                                $25,000

People Design                                                                        $25,000

KatePew Wolters                                                                        $25,000

West Side Beer Distributing                                                $25,000

Edgar & Elsa Prince                                                                        $25,000

Kendall College of Art & Design                                                $20,000

Comcast                                                                                    $20,000

Grand Rapids Downtown Development Authority            $15,000

Wolverine Worldwide                                                            $15,000

Herman Miller                                                                        $15,000

Universal Forest Products                                                            $15,000

Cascade Engineering                                                            $15,000

JCT Foundation                                                                        $15,000

Amway Hotel Corporation                                                            $10,000

McGarry Bair                                                                        $10,000

Pearl St Investment MGMT of Oppenheimer & Co.            $10,000

Modern Day Floral                                                                         $10,000

Fifth Third Bank                                                                        $10,000

Applause Catering                                                                        $10,000

Warner, Norcross & Judd LLP                                                $10,000

Spectrum Health Hospital                                                            $10,000

J.C. Huizenga Group                                                                        $10,000

Eastern Floral                                                                         $10,000

In addition, there were numerous other entities that gave between $5,000 and $7,500 dollars to ArtPrize 2010.

Looking at this list of financial contributors one can easily see that those who were major donors are the political and economic power in this community. It should come as no surprise that they were major donors to ArtPrize, since they are also entities that will benefit financially and politically from the annual downtown art event.

As we have stated before, if you look at who makes up the Grand Rapids Chamber of Commerce, the Econ Club of Grand Rapids, the Downtown Development Authority, Grand Action, the West Michigan Policy Forum and the One Kent Coalition you see many of the same names involved in sponsoring ArtPrize. The Chamber of Commerce and the Econ Club have been supporters of the economic policies implemented by Governor Snyder, which have resulted in the elimination of a business tax, weakening public sector unions and taking away local power through the Emergency Financial Manager system.

The West Michigan Policy Forum wants Michigan to be a Right to Work state and the One Kent Coalition wants to radically alter local government by merging the City of Grand Rapids with the Kent County that will be led by a CEO, according to their own proposed legislation.

In addition to these policy benefits, these entities will make lots of money during ArtPrize, since many of them own or have investments in downtown hotels, bars, restaurants, parking facilities and other services. These entities also benefit, in that all of the donations are tax right offs, since ArtPrize is now a 501c3 non-profit entity.

More importantly, ArtPrize acts as a mechanism to distract us from the political and economic power that the DeVos’ and their friends have in West Michigan or worse, it acts as a form of cultural imperialism by making the public give thanks to the local robber barons for entertaining us for a few weeks every fall. Either way, the public loses while the Grand Rapids version of the 1% laughs all the way to the bank.

In May of 2012, we can get access to the 990s for the 2011 ArtPrize and we promise to give you a breakdown of their finances for the third year of operation.

13 Comments leave one →
  1. Tom Henry permalink
    November 16, 2011 4:57 am

    Thanks Jeff, for shedding light on the inner workings of artprize and letting us know who really benefits…….

  2. richardkooyman permalink
    November 16, 2011 1:34 pm

    Thanks Jeff for all your hard work.

    As I and others have written about here and elsewhere not only is ArtPrize an economic development plan for the city but it is a ultra conservative’s family foray into the political control of culture.
    As Chris Hedge’s writes about in his book “The Death of the Liberal Class”, liberals have been unorganized and lazy while the conservative right has been vocal, organized and monied on a local, regional and national level.
    Artprize is a cultural part of “the battle” that Dick Devos spoke about in a speech at the Heritage Foundation ten years ago. It is a battle he suggested would have political consequences for those who do not follow along. The list of reading donors reads not so much as a list of businesses that would profit directly from ArtPrize (some do) but as a list of businesses that profit from the Devos’s in some capacity.

  3. kswheeler permalink
    November 16, 2011 3:44 pm

    Jeff, great job in hanging in there to get this info, since I know that ArtPrize was extremely non-forthcoming with you.

    The list almost made me laugh–the Usual Suspects. But it’s a disappointment to me to see Kate Pew Wolters, who formerly was fairly progressive, drifting into this gang of robber barons. Her involvement in the One Kent scam is proof of a change of attitude as well.

    Richard, good for you tor bringing up DeVos’s highly revealing “battle” speech. GRIID readers can see it here:

  4. Y.B. Ordinary permalink
    November 16, 2011 9:23 pm

    Help me with my memory here, Jeff.
    Isn’t the Downtown Development Authority funded by a property millage and/or income taxes in Grand Rapids?
    If so, why are they giving taxpayer money to ArtPrize?

  5. Jeff Smith permalink
    November 16, 2011 10:54 pm

    Some of the DDA money is taxpayer money, but what percentage of their budget is public money I don’t know.

  6. kswheeler permalink
    November 18, 2011 12:12 am

    In 2010, the DDA had total assets and holdings of $78.7 million. It received almost $10 million from property tax revenues, and charged a quarter-million for its consulting services. It reported $14.9 million in its “governmental fund balances.” But it wasn’t possible for me to determine how much annually they’d received in terms of taxpayer money. If you’re better at reading financials than I am, the report is here:

    A report in Crain’s that was published just yesterday mentions that $4.7 million of tax credits were just approved for the indoor farmers’ market alone.The property is owned by the DDA, who will lease it to Urban Market Holdings for $1 a year. The DDA is also going to kick in $4.7 million of its budget for site improvements. So it certainly benefits by pushing projects that involve its holdings.

  7. Karen permalink
    August 8, 2012 2:13 pm

    What is really sad is that all this money went to this event while the GR Arts Council went “out of business” this year. Yeah, cause the arts are all fine in Grand Rapids. Sigh.


  1. New Economic report underscores the money making function of ArtPrize « Grand Rapids Institute for Information Democracy
  2. The “humility” of Rick DeVos « Grand Rapids Institute for Information Democracy
  3. The money connection between ArtPrize and the Right to Work law in Michigan « Grand Rapids Institute for Information Democracy
  4. Year Seven of the Monied Spectacle: An Indy Media Guide to ArtPrize | Grand Rapids Institute for Information Democracy
  5. 10 years of ArtPrize critique and resistance | Grand Rapids Institute for Information Democracy
  6. ArtPrize is Back and I still Hate it | Grand Rapids Institute for Information Democracy

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: