Thursday, September 27, 2012

A Taxonomy of ArtPrize Venues

If you don't know what ArtPrize is, you're not from Grand Rapids, MI or you've been in a cave for a few years. You can read the details here. Last year I blogged about ArtPrize for the first time. I noted patterns in the ArtPrize entrants and presented A Taxonomy of ArtPrize Entries.

This year I noticed my prior taxonomy held up so well that I couldn't think of anything useful to add to it. I think you may someday see a rise of ArtPrize Hacks, but that's another story.

Instead, I noticed something about venues and how they differ. Some venues are absolutely amazing and others are less so.

Crowded and Possibly Overrated
There are venues at ArtPrize that are just a pain to deal with. My first impression of ArtPrize this year was the guard at the Fredrick Meijer Gardens telling me that photography was not permitted. OK, I won't vote for anyone at this venue. Besides, there wasn't one entry that I would have voted for, too. Pity.

I also made the mistake of going through the Grand Rapids Art Museum on the Saturday afternoon of ArtPrize. Big mistake. It had two monumental pencil sketches that looked cool, but not so cool that I want to brave the crowds for them. And besides, didn't we do monumental pencil sketches in earlier years?

Someday I'll blog about why Rich People Are Stupid. But that's for another day.

I walked into Brann's on Leonard and looked around. There was some kid's project where he'd glued Tootsie Roll Pop labels to a bit of poster board in a pleasing pattern. That's nice. "Anything else here?" I asked the manager. "No."

A lot of downtown watering holes have a few items they put up and I'm glad they do, but I wish some of them would take it more seriously. It irritated me when venues weren't open when everyone else was, or had closed early.

It's really nice when a venue has arrows directing people to the art. If they do a good job of making non-customers like me feel comfortable and welcome, I'll be more likely to come back as a customer the next time I'm hungry or thirsty.

Last year Coit Elementary school had this marvelous 3-story high painting that I mentioned. Sadly, Coit Elementary has only two entrants.

If you're an "art expert" you'll say the old museum, Site:Lab is a great venue. OK. It's confusing, because it's hard to know where the detritus of the old museum ends and where the art begins. The site is across the street from a big church with a lot of art in it, too. By some odd coincidence there was an entry that from a distance appeared to be a church bulletin board.

Diamonds In The Rough
There are several churches that host a number of entries like City View and Monroe Community. They are pleasant spaces and have a surprising mix of good pieces, message pieces and refrigerator art. These venues generally lie beyond walking distance from downtown.

The best exemplar of this type of venue is Baker Tent Rental. The best part of Baker Tent is their "didn't get into ArtPrize" reception this Saturday that showcases artists who didn't make the ArtPrize cut. They plan to serve snacks to starving artists!

Lemons Into Lemonade
The recession has caused some large commercial office spaces to remain unrented and unfinished. One such is High Five. They've taken a huge open space on the fifth floor of an office building and filled it with art. They have benches set up in front of art that are made of boards resting on cinder blocks. They have large windows that allow people to see some of the huge installations in adjacent parking garage stairwells. Finally, they have a wonderful dynamic light sculpture using LEDs suspended from CAT5 Ethernet cables. The best part of this installation are the recliners that let me put up my weary feet. Good show guys.

In addition to having tough economic times High Five has a tough location. It's hard to find and easy to miss. So, they put up helpful signs leading to the elevator in the parking garage and hired a pleasant girl to welcome & direct visitors.

By all means get downtown and see ArtPrize.

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