Oct 20

Art Prize 2010 (a little late)

I have been wanting to do this post for a while now, but just haven’t sat down to write it.  I hope you enjoy this non-triathlon related post.

Some quick background.  Art Prize is an annual event that takes place all over Grand Rapids.  Pretty much anyone can enter their art and this year, the event’s 2nd year, saw over 1700 pieces of work.  The art is displayed at various venues, both indoors and outdoors, throughout the city.  The art ranges from paintings and photographs to large 3D spectacles.  Voting is done entirely by community members.  After the first week, the top 10 pieces are announced with the final winner taking home $250,000 after the second round of voting.

As this was the 2nd year of Art Prize, we were interested to see how it would change from year one.  It definitely grew by leaps and bounds in a single year.  While the downtown area was better prepared for the event (last year, restaurants were running out of food), there was still so many people, that it made it difficult to navigate.  Jennie and I were able to walk around Art Prize on two occasions; once in the first week and again after the top 10 were announced.  We managed to see 7 of the top 10 and all of the top 3 winners.

Here are some of our favorites:

Play Me, I’m Yours
This piece feature dozens of pianos throughout the city, each painted with a unique theme.

"Kiss" (Penn Station NYC)
At first glance, this 4’x8’ piece seemed unspectacular.  However, as you get closer to it, you notice the various textures of the surface.  The picture is actually created using 6 layers of different colored duct tape!  When were were there, the artist was actually around and answering questions.  This was the largest piece of art he had ever created.  One of the cool things about Art Prize is that sometimes the artists will be around to show off their work and answer questions.

Birch Bark Voyager Canoe
This piece was built with birch bark and natural materials by a local artist.  The really cool thing about this piece is that it was built using only primitive tools and the artist enlisted the help of a 5th grade class to help build it.  It was modeled after the type of canoe that was used by Native Americans over 200 years ago to navigate the Grand River.

I can’t remember the title of this piece.  It was actually part of a large group of pieces that were all constructed using recycled materials (aka junk).  This particular piece, however, made me think of Jeff @ Dangle The Carrot.  It looks like the perfect Texan bike.  It has a horse saddle for a seat, saddle bags, horns on the back, and a spot for your knife (the brown leather by the front wheel).  What do you say Jeff, could this be your IM Texas bike?  You may not go that fast, but you can always slash your competitors’ tires with your knife.

This is the piece that won the 1st place prize of $250,000.  The piece is a pencil drawing of a photo from the civil war.  Pencil drawing? Can’t anyone do a pencil drawing?  Well, what if I told you the drawing was about 28 feet by 8 feet.  And on top of that, the detail in the piece was absolutely amazing.  It took the artist about 800 hours of work to complete.

Here is a close up of the right hand side.

Here is a picture from further back to give you an idea of the scale.

This one made it into the top 10 and placed 5th overall.  It is kind of hard to explain, but it is 3D art created from 2D mediums.  Think of it is 120 plastic transparencies all hung parallel to each other.  These stacked 2D sheets form a 3D image when illuminated by spot lights.  It was really cool because it looked different from every angle.

Chaos Theory
This piece is a photograph from the 2009 Reeds Lake Triathlon, which I participated in.  So, there is a chance that I am in there somewhere.  The artist’s description of the piece is simply, “A beautifully orchestrated mess.”  What a great way to describe a triathlon swim.

Here I am joining in on the swimming.

From a distance, this piece looks like an oil painting.  As you get closer though, you notice all of the individual pieces.  It was actually created by individually cut pieces of glass.  It took the artist over 2700 hours of work.  It ended up taking 2nd place overall for a $100,000 prize.

Detroit Forsaken
I think out of all of the exhibits, this was my absolute favorite.  It was a series of 21 black and white photographs of Detroit.  There is no better way to describe the piece than with the artist’s own words:

“These are not the ruins of Rome, nor the tombs of Egypt. While the echoes of the past resonate, this community is extinguishing in the present. This is a story about things left behind painted with a heavy heart by dim and murky light. This is the time of death of the American Industrial Revolution. Few cities have had more influence on the growth of a civilization. Few cities have so rapidly fallen from grace. As an economic bellwether, she now lives a cautionary tale for all those great cities that danced to Motown’s lead, and are most likely doomed to follow in her footsteps. What remains is a drained and evaporated cityscape – one that is haunting, seductive and alive with ghosts.” (Source: www.artprize.org)

The above picture is of The Vanity Ballroom, the stage for greats such as Duke Ellington, Tommy Dorsey, and Benny Goodman.  Even in its dilapidated state, you can still see the grandeur that once was.


This one is an eerie view of the now torn down Tiger Stadium.   Tiger Stadium was replaced by Comerica Park a few years ago leaving the historic ballpark to fall into ruin.

If you want to see the rest of the Top 10 or read more about Art Prize, check out their website at http://www.artprize.org.

I hope you enjoyed this non-triathlon post.  I’ll try and get back on topic for my next post.

Permanent link to this article: http://www.ironmanbythirty.com/2010/10/20/art-prize-2010-a-little-late


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  1. Jon

    Very cool! The swim photo makes us look totally bada$$.

  2. lindsay

    i enjoyed it. i love cool artsy things, even though i made fun of the Red on FB haha. i think i’ve seen pics online of the detroit ruins stuff.

  3. Lisa

    I like the piano. 🙂

  4. kc

    Loved this post. Even if it wasn’t tri related. I have to say that my favorite piece was not triathlong related. I thought the drawing done by pencil was incredible. The detail was to die for and i’m looking at a pencil on my desk right now thinking how such a simple instrument could create such intricate detail…wow! Thanks for sharing. I love the painted pianos too.

  5. BDD

    “A beautifully orchestrated mess.”

    LOL, thats the nice way of putting it

  6. Aimee (I Tri To Be Me)

    WOW! Those pieces are absolutely amazing! The duct tape one and the pencil drawing just blew my mind! Wow!

  7. Morgan

    OMG love this! Thanks so much for posting!!! Now I’m even more bummed we never had time to get over there to see everything! The longer I live here the more I am realizing that Grand Rapids is innovative and really breaking out of its shell.

  8. Mandy

    WOW!!! This is awesome! LOVE it, thank you so much for posting. I wish we could see stuff like that more often. Once in a while I get down to Portland and I always check out the exhibit taht is there, but this is incredible.

  9. onelittletrigirl

    Wow- that stuff is amazing. I would have loved to seen it in person. Thanks for posting!

  10. K

    Wow- those are awesome! I really liked the duct tape art! I would have never known if you didn’t point it out.
    I wonder how many pencils it took to finish that pencil drawing?! That is incredible.

  11. Maria

    Um…that stuff is AWESOME! Thank you for sharing! Art like that just boggles my mind. The talent and the time is just unreal!

  12. regina

    We had those pianos all over the city this summer (maybe not THOSE pianos). It was pretty cool, anyone could stop and play them and they were all painted. The duct tape thing is very cool. I wish I could see this show.

    The person who won the $250,000 first prize? I figured it out, that is $312.50/hour for that. Not too shabby. I love drawing in pencil, but maybe not that big..ha!

  1. Ironman By Thirty » Blog Archive » In the News

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