ArtPrize 2021 features a strong Laker presence


GVL / Meghan Landgren

Mary Racette, Print Associate Editor

Grand Rapids’ ArtPrize has returned with a range of artists from all over the world after a two-year hiatus. 

There is a strong Laker presence at ArtPrize this year. Three faculty members, one current student and numerous alumni are participating in the competition are among the hundreds of artists who are competing in this year’s ArtPrize.

Since 2009, ArtPrize has offered an opportunity for the Grand Rapids community to engage with art of all mediums. Art is made accessible to the public in various venues throughout the city from Sept. 16 to Oct. 3. 

During these 18 days, the public is given the voice to support their favorite pieces by voting online.

Some of these GVSU artists happen to have their work displayed at the same venue, The Water Colors Aquarium Gallery.

ArtPrize Artist Amelia Wagenschutz is a GVSU senior with a graphic design major and an advertising and public relations minor. Not only is it the first time she has entered into ArtPrize, but this is one of the first times her work has been shown in a gallery setting.

Wagenschutz’s piece “Nature in a Modern World” consists of three separate wall hangings.

She used acrylic paints on fabric, and then embroidered over it to create a visual depiction of the balance between natural and manmade elements. 

In the early stages of her creative process, the centerpiece of the series was the only component. This summer she added two other pieces to expand the size and impact of the message.

“The whole idea of it was to create a piece that touched on environmental concerns such as single-use plastic and overconsumption,” Wagenschutz said.

Even though Wagenschutz is majoring in graphic design, she said she has always been more passionate about traditional art. She said multiple professors at GVSU including Brett Colley, Vinicius Lima and Tim Fisher helped her grow as an artist as they encouraged her to think outside the box.

“I feel like in a lot of my classes at GVSU I have had a lot of freedom to make stuff that I am passionate about,” Wagenschutz said.

As someone who has enjoyed attending ArtPrize as an observer, she found that it was easier than she expected to enter as an artist.

“Nature in a Modern World” can be found at The Water Colors Aquarium Gallery. 

Another piece by members of the GVSU community that can be found in the Water Colors Aquarium Gallery is called “Time Passing: Passing Time.”

GVSU Film and Video Professor Suzanne Zack was the editor for the project, created by animators Jim Middleton, Gretchen Vinnedge and GVSU Professor Emeritus Deanna Morse.

This project grew out of the attempts of the team of animators to stay connected during the pandemic. They continued to create together through this era of isolation by choosing themes to prompt their animations. 

Once they realized this project could be turned into something much bigger, Zack was hired as their editor to add structure to the animations.

“We realized that throughout the time period of the pandemic, the works that they were creating, while the theme was not overtly about the pandemic, they were expressing the feelings of it,” Zack said.

As the animators were creating in isolation, they emotionally expressed what was happening in certain stages of the pandemic through the visual themes. This resulted in a project that documented the pandemic in an artistic way. 

Collaborating with this group of animators was one of Zack’s favorite parts about working on this project. She said she loves collaborating with other artists because it expands her understanding of many different things.

The animators chose to embrace the fish theme since they are located in an aquarium. They were able to arrange to have the video play behind a fish tank. 

The creative positioning of this installation exemplifies the element of ArtPrize which calls upon artists to figure out the best way to display their work that is engaging for the audience. 

Employees at the aquarium even noticed that there was one fish that would even position itself just to watch the video.

“It’s just really interesting to see not only the people interacting with it, but the fish in the tank interacting with it,” Zack said.

Zack said so far the event has been an incredible learning experience for herself, prompting her to bring the same excitement to her classroom in coming weeks. 

“Just talking to the artists and seeing such a variety of art and hearing the conversations about art was so enlivening and gave me new energy and ideas to come back into the classroom with,” Zack said.

In addition to Zack and Morse, photography professor Stafford Smith is also featured in ArtPrize with his video installation “Unstable Orbit.” His entry can be found at The Harris Building.

Work by the GVSU community can be seen strolling the streets of downtown Grand Rapids during ArtPrize among many other talented artists from around the world.