Saturday, October 8, 2011

Artprize: Making Art an Economic Force to Be Reckoned with

The third Artprize just wrapped up in Grand Rapids MI a couple of days ago.

ArtPrize 2010 Retrospective from Paul Moore on Vimeo.

In case you haven't heard of it before, Artprize is the unique visual art competition that takes over an entire city and awards a $250,000 prize for the winner. The winner is selected American Idol style by the general public from amongst 1,500+ artists.

This year's winner was Mia Tavonatti, who entered a monumental 9'x13' stained glass mosaic entitled Crucifixion.

A powerful example of the economic impact, consider: one restaurant alone was planning this year to increase its sales by more than $300,000 over the course of the event. That is, one single restaurant brings in way more than enough from the event to pay the cost of the grand prize.

Last year, estimates of the total economic impact were in the range of $7 million. This year a more detailed study will be done.

No doubt these studies will only graze the potential benefit of converting this mixed economy city, known for furniture manufacturing, Amway and religious publishing among several other industries, into a high profile cultural center.

Back in the early '80s, Chemainus on Vancouver Island showed how a small town could leverage art and creativity to literally turn its fortunes around with its innovative mural program. That success spawned dozens, if not hundreds, of copycats. Most likely the same will hold true for the Grand Rapids Artprize.

Before you know it, there could be an "Artprize" type event in every state and province. Hey, the more the merrier!

This event has proven a novel experiment in many ways. Not only is it a wake-up call for the many detractors who fail to see art and culture as an economic engine - people who would rather spend money building jails - it has also been a lesson in humility for the art establishment, many of whom see themselves marginalized in all the hoopla, as they are left on the sideline to whimper about what they call the "poor quality" of the work in general, or the final 10, etc.

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