GVSU students compete, participate in ArtPrize Seven

GVL / Sara Carte

Sara Carte

GVL / Sara Carte

Dan Goubert

As the sound of a didgeridoo echoed in the distance, a Michael Jackson impersonator danced while crowds of curly wigs bobbed to the music. This may not be a common sight in other cities, but for the launch of Grand Rapids’ seventh annual ArtPrize competition, it’s all part of an experience worth framing.

The 19-day long ArtPrize Seven will feature 1,739 artists showcasing their work in over 160 venues across three square miles of Grand Rapids. Among the entries competing for two $200,000 grand prizes is “Framing the Experience,” a series of pieces created collaboratively by Grand Valley State University students and the department of art and design.

A jury decision and public vote will decide whom to award the winning prizes. Nearly 400,000 votes were cast during last year’s competition, which reported more than 441,000 visitors. As of Sept. 27, ArtPrize Seven has already collected over 143,000 votes.

On Wednesday, Sept. 23, Rosa Parks Circle was host to both the WGVU Community Arts Celebration and GVSU’s ArtPrize Kickoff event.

The kickoff event featured a Bob Ross lookalike contest, with PBS representatives on site to distribute the wigs that pay homage to the TV painter’s famous hairstyle. A multitude of food trucks and street performers were nearby to entertain visitors, and event staff guided passersby into the Grand Rapids Art Museum to view ArtPrize entries that covered all three of the building’s floors.

After an introduction from Grand Rapids Mayor George Heartwell, GVSU’s Laker marching band played a joint show with GVSU’s dance company. The dance company, along with Louie the Laker, performed while the band played a mix of both GVSU football classics and new halftime show songs, from the university’s fight song to the modern “Uptown Funk.”

“It’s a good way for us to expose ourselves in the community,” said sophomore saxophone player Ryan Schmidt. “I think it’s a really cool way for us to make Grand Valley known.”

The fight song was led by GVSU President Thomas Haas, who also discussed the importance of GVSU’s presence at ArtPrize.

“I love having the band be recognized and also be part of this whole atmosphere that’s being created around ArtPrize,” Haas said. “It just creates an atmosphere where we’re celebrating the arts, but we’re also celebrating the community.”

After the show, a crowd walked across Grand Rapid’s Blue Bridge to the L.V. Eberhard Center to see “Framing the Experience.”

The series exhibits jewelry and metalwork created by 14 current and former GVSU students, with artists ranging from those in their first semester to those who have already graduated.

Beverly Seley, a GVSU art professor and coordinator for the jewelry and metalsmithing program, said the students with pieces in the exhibit were thrilled. She added how she was excited that the students would be able to experience “the culmination of a piece of art” that is represented by displaying their work and explaining it to viewers.

“Framing the Experience” is one of ten ArtPrize entries across the city created by GVSU students and faculty. More than just art and design majors, GVSU entrants have areas of study including music, photography, education, psychology, natural resources management and more.

President Haas noted the connection between ArtPrize and GVSU’s goal of interdisciplinary learning.

“(ArtPrize) fits nicely within our mission of shaping student lives, professions and society,” he said. “We’re understanding that our society is really enhanced by all types of art. We’re being exposed to the essence of a liberal arts education.”

ArtPrize runs from Sept. 23 to Oct. 11. Among the many upcoming ArtPrize events are film showings by the Waterfront Film Festival, theatre performances of ‘The Great Gatsby” and “Newsies,” art workshops, live music, a beer garden and more. A full calendar of events is available on the ArtPrize website at www.artprize.org/events.