#WeCreate: Art Prize, the Jewel of Grand Rapids Michigan

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I can’t believe I haven’t thought to blog on this one yet. I’m ashamed of myself.

The concept of Art Prize is simple, brilliant, and beautiful. For a limited time, a 3-square-mile section of Grand Rapids, Michigan becomes one giant open-air art competition with a top prize of $200,000. Participation is free, attendance is free. It’s a massive celebration of imaginative freedom. Artists participate by applying to one of the venues and registering their entry. The public participates by walking around the city to view the works and vote on the ones they think are the best in each category–two-dimensional, three-dimensional, time-based, and installation.

Art Prize began in 2009. This is probably why I have not been able to go yet. I graduated from Grand Valley State University (very near Grand Rapids) in 2010. I hadn’t even heard of it by the time I graduated. My sister, on the other hand, attends whenever she can.

The 2016 Art Prize even runs from September 21 through October 9, 2016 (which honestly makes this blog post perfectly-timed completely by accident).

I’m having a hard time embedding the images for the top five finalists in each category for you to see, but I definitely think that this is worth clicking on:


The event generates a lot of hype. More than 400,000 people visit every year, boosting the local economy and adding to the ‘destination’ profile of Grand Rapids, which already boasts an incredible selection for craft beers and food.

It brings me joy to share with you something of my home state. In a lot of ways, I think Michigan has become a hole of depression; the economy has been sluggish, Flint is poisoned, the government is shitty, Detroit has the stigma of being a city of murder, our roads are some of the worst in the country…

It can sometimes be hard to remember the positive aspects of my home state. It’s a hard balance to strike. Bonfires on the beaches of Lake Michigan, the status of becoming a food and alcohol destination, and events like Art Prize are good reminders that I still don’t want to live anywhere else.

(Except maybe Pittsburgh.)

S.K. Balk lives in the frozen wasteland of Northern Michigan. She is the author of the dystopian medical sci-fi THE BLOOD OF NERYS (also available in print).

Check out the #WeCreate category every Saturday for a little art appreciation from Frankie and Sam!


About oneofthedragons

Samantha K. Balk and F. R. Donaldson met on An Archive of Our Own, one of the many fanfiction sites online, when Sam asked Frankie to illustrate the fanfiction that would one day lead to Sam's first novel. They've been friends ever since! This blog was created as a way to share the oftentimes difficult journey any new author experiences on the uncomfortable quest of an introvert for attention to his or her most personal work. It is meant to remind you that authors don't just appear fully fledged like a George R. R. Martin, that all of us start out unsure and feeling inadequate. Feel free to ask us anything. Sam: sammykaye9@gmail.com Frankie: reluctant.fraggle@gmail.com

Posted on October 8, 2016, in #WeCreate and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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