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Art Competition Brings Urban Vitality and Civic Pride

Mark Stryker writes on Grand Rapids' ArtPrize, a citywide art competition that awards prize money based on public vote, and has been a boon to artists and the local economy. It is now inspiring other cities to host their own such events.
September 18, 2012, 8am PDT | Emily Williams
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ArtPrize is a new breed of art competition that's causing quite a stir in cities across the country. In it's fourth year, the Grand Rapids-based competition brings artists and venues together to showcase contemporary works in various locations of the city. It's like an outdoor, city-wide museum. Writes Stryker, "About 1,500 artists from 39 states and 46 countries will be showing work in more than 160 venues -- museums, civic buildings, parks, restaurants, banks and more -- most squeezed into a walkable 3-square-mile core in downtown."

The public can vote for their favorite pieces online, through text message, or by mobile app, and this year the total prize money will reach $560,000. The competition has garnered a great deal of attention since its inception, and its attempt to "spark a broader engagement with art" has proved extremely successful.

After a study was released stating that in 2011, ArtPrize "added $15.4 million to the local economy" and drew "more than 320,000 visitors over 19 days," other cities like Akron, Ohio, realized the potential to boost their own economies. Says Downtown Akron Partnership president Suzie Graham, "We became involved because of the significant economic impact on Grand Rapids and the role the arts can play in revitalizing our downtown."

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Published on Sunday, September 16, 2012 in Detroit Free Press
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