The “grand” prize for fusing art and economic development

This is a slightly revised post from the same story I wrote for Rust Wire, that was published earlier today. Enjoy!

I had my first opportunity to attend ArtPrize in Grand Rapids on September 29th. My oh my, have they ever hit upon a huge economic development success. Touted as the world’s largest open art competition, covering more than three square miles in the city’s central business district, ArtPrize is simply mind-boggling, inspiring, amazing, and entertaining all at the same time.

All told, in 2102, you could see 1,517 entries (from 45 states and 56 countries) on display at 161 venues by walking the entire nine mile trail. It is quite amazing. ArtPrize offers a grand prize of $200,000 and total prizes of $560,000.

September 29th was a beautiful autumn day in Grand Rapids and as a result, a huge crowd showed up for ArtPrize. Thousands upon thousands came from all over the State of Michigan and literally all over the world.  Any downtown business that was not open was very short-sighted, because most were packed well into the evening.

According to a report entitled,The Economic Impact of ArtPrize 2011, by Anderson Economic Group, more than 322,000 people attended the free 19 day event in 2011 (its third year of existence) and spent more than $10 million (or approx. $30.50 per spectator). Another nearly $2 million was spent by organizers and the artists themselves. This does not even begin to figure in the intangible benefits such as positive press, word of mouth, prestige for the city/region, etc.

Personally, I had a tremendous time and saw some awe-inspiring pieces of art of every artistic genre imaginable. Thankfully, my date had a number of key locations and exhibits scouted ahead of time. My favorite was entitled “Birds” which is depicted earlier in this post.

By the way, did I note how impressed I was with both downtown and frankly the entire city of Grand Rapids. There is a whole lot of economic and cultural vibe going on here. Watch out Indianapolis, Columbus, Twin Cities, and Madison, for Grand Rapids is rising fast and nipping at your heels. Very, very impressive! My kudos to the entire city and its citizens.

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2 Responses to The “grand” prize for fusing art and economic development

  1. I have been up there a couple of times within the past year and I agree there is a vibe about it. I haven’t necessarily been able to put my finger on it, but as a young free-agent this is a city on my “Move To” list.

    Heritage Hill got the APA 2012 Great Neighborhood nod. There are great neighborhoods (some in need of some TLC) around the downtown. What is going on down on Cherry and Wealthy Streets is pretty exciting commercially.

    I think the right building stock has been preserved throughout the years which is of the utmost importance. Downtown still lacks the full 24/7 vibe, but you can’t complain about Founder’s Brewery.

    Oh and did I mention GR is home to Founder’s Brewery… Brewery Vivant is a good one too!


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