ArtPrize 2009 was, in many aspects, successful on a scale beyond what any of us anticipated. In looking toward 2010, we are careful not to make sweeping changes to an event that worked so well in it’s first year, and is still very much in its youth. ArtPrize is put on by thousands of independent participants working within the simple framework we’ve set up, and one of our biggest anticipations is how venues and artists will adapt their plans for 2010, now that 2009 is under their belts. So, we don’t want to drastically change the game. Our work for the past few months has been to identify a few key areas of the event that can run smoother, so overall participation is improved. One area we’ve identified is represented by the introduction of Exhibition Centers.
Within the first few days of 2009’s event, The Old Federal Building became a venue with tremendous buzz. “If you have two hours to go to ArtPrize, go to The Old Federal Building,” was the advice visitors passed on to their friends. Why was this?
The Old Federal Building was centrally located, it was very well curated by the Urban Institute for Contemporary Art, there were two floors of pristine exhibition space (it’s the former home of the Grand Rapids Art Museum) and there was the ArtPrize store and a voter registration site. All of those factors made it a must-see venue. It drew over 80,000 visitors–the winning piece was exhibited there–and brought crowds to the surrounding area.
At the ArtPrize office, we discuss the inherent tension of the event between predictability and possibility. ArtPrize is about possibility. It’s a treasure hunt, a two week discovery process where visitors literally don’t know what they’ll find around each corner. It’s beautiful. However, when the prospect of an afternoon at one major venue outweighs the unpredictable–potentially inconvenient–prospect of exploring another part of the city, adding a little predictability may be in everyone’s interest.
For 2010, we’re trying out the idea of Exhibition Centers. An Exhibition Center is basically an Old Federal Building experience in another part of the city. If the Old Federal Building became a node that activity happened around, how can we create more nodes to get more activity into more areas?
Where will they be and which institutions will organize the exhibitions? Well, we’re working on that now. It’s a fluid idea and we’re learning the nuts and bolts of how to make it happen as I write this. Our hope–if the city’s infrastructure and generous sponsors will allow it–is to have Exhibition Centers throughout the ArtPrize district. This is a formidable task. If the 2010 Exhibition Centers succeed in spreading more activity into more neighborhoods, then it’s a program that can continue to adapt and grow each year.
We’ll announce more details in coming months.