ArtPrize Blog

Plans for 2010 “Exhibition Centers”

January 28th, 2010


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.

Posted by Paul Moore in Announcements

24 Responses to “Plans for 2010 “Exhibition Centers””

  1. I respect your decision to keep things consistent as you build a foundation, and I still appreciate and admire all your hard work in putting on this event. Major kudos for your accomplishments.

    At the same time, I’ll be disappointed if the voting system isn’t radically improved. A popular vote for the Top Ten makes sense, but not for the first round. Even with Exhibition Centers to draw people to various neighborhoods, many artists and venues will feel disenfranchised if their location fails to compete for foot traffic with an exhibition center. Is that really the fault of the artwork?

    I’m tellin’ you, guys…

    I believe Artprize would drastically improve its credibility among artists if the first round vote was based on a ratio of “thumbs up” to “traffic”. I know I’m repeating myself, but this is solid, constructive criticism that could really help strengthen Artprize.

    If a small painting in a hole-in-the-wall cafe gets 90% positive reviews, shouldn’t that piece be deserving of a spot to compete against larger pieces at exhibition centers that might only have 70% positive reviews? The more fair the voting process is to artists, the more diversity of art you will find competing in future years. Fairness is the answer if you want to build trust among artists and build a long-term foundation so that Artprize may prosper for years to come.

    My three cents…

    One last thing… I know you guys are busy getting everything organized for 2010. But, I would be very interested in your help to find a sponsor so that I may create an entry for 2010. If you talk to your corporate sponsors about the possibility of also sponsoring individual artists, you would be doing a great service for the artist community, who might otherwise lack the resources to create an amazing piece of art. Not all artists are entrepreneurial, and they shouldn’t have to be. It would be nice to get some support. Can you respond to this message? Feel free to call, email, or Facebook me. Thanks.

  2. Duane Stendel says:

    Please keep artprize focus downtown. Expand the borders some but keep everything close to each other. Part of what worked was getting people to walk and see things close to each other. Not just get into cars and drive from point to point.

    In the future you could expand further or develop these pocket ideas, but do not dilute the event to please everyone. In the end you will please no one.

  3. The Dude says:

    Using traffic as part of the equation could lead to abuse.

    Just put up a painting in a hole-in-the-wall location that you own, tell all of your friends to vote for it. Then don’t advertise it’s location. You could easily end up with 100% positive votes.

    When there’s money involved you have to be really careful how you set up the whole process.

  4. Jerry Krupiczewicz says:

    I agree wholeheartedly that the votes should be “weighted” using a percentage of the total traffic at a venue as a factor. I think the preponderance of votes for exhibitors in the “downtown” venues should illustrate that. I, myself, was in the Riverview Center, and, while it did get quite a bit of traffic, it wasn’t anywhere near even a tenth of 80,000 people!

  5. Barbara Plummer says:

    Enjoyed ArtPrize tremendously. I took a chartered bus trip,we arrived on a cold, windy day. Much of the publicly displayed art had been damaged to some degree. Nonetheless, I enjoyed the experience, being embedded with so much art – some wonderful, some questionable. It was very difficult to cover all exhibition areas. I chose to go to those that had the greatest number. More screening or an improved first round voting procedure needs to be developed. My four hours in town did not allowed me to view, evaluate, absorb and wisely vote. I did vote for the finalists and was less frustrated while selecting.

  6. Glad to see plans underway for 2010!

    Despite the fact that you don’t want to make any drastic changes, the voting system has to be drastically changed if ArtPrize is to be a FairPrize.
    How about this…
    First, all entries are housed in a few large buildings and arranged in each building (or outdoors) in such a way that the viewer has to follow a path that has them pass by each entry before exiting that venue. On his or her way out the door, the viewer presents their voter registration number and then is given a code that enables them to vote on line. In order to qualify to be a voter, the viewer will have to have seen ALL of the entries at each building. This method would work like a voting machine — you enter the booth (the building or the outside ground on which outdoor pieces are displayed), you see all the candidates before you (the entries), and you cast your vote. Imagine a traditional art contest in which the judges only look at some of the pieces. This is exactly what happened in 2009 at ArtPrize. It simply was not fair. Alan Carriero

  7. Robert Glass says:

    No criticisms here, no suggestions either, just very excited and glad to have the opportunity to participate this year. Let’s do this!

  8. Doug Boulee says:

    Art Prize 2009 was certainly “venue driven” and the fact that your addressing that with Exhibition Centers will be a great improvement. Heideman’s thoughts of a ratio of “thumbs up” to “traffic” are also good but the whole process must continue to be kept as simple as possible. I’m not sure how “traffic” could be easily tabulated. Much of it was not even registered.

    Continue to keep it simple (voting was really not all that difficult). Also, keep in mind that most all venues were so very grateful to have the traffic that they did and I know most of the artists were gratetful to have the exposure that they did.

    I think your headed in the right direction and hope all goes well for 2010.

    Keep up the great work….

    ….”Windigo” Doug Boulee

  9. susan teague says:

    Glad to see thoughtful considerations for system changes, revamping for artist, venue and public alike. I agree with Alan Carriero’s remark about the “unfairness” of the voting system. The arist and venue both put a great deal of energy in the event and it is unfortunate that many art pieces had little visibility. Perhaps monitors could be placed in the exhibition centers that would flash each of the atist’s entries for a few seconds or so. The presentation of all the artwork could loop every 10 minutes, (or whatever amount of time it would take to complete the loop) The images flashed would include location of the artist’s work and he voting ID number.
    Susan Teague.

  10. Carol VanderNat says:

    I agree with Aaron…my work was displayed at a remote venue, and I worked in regisering people to vote at the Old Federal Building…wondering what the voting would have been like had ALL THOSE PEOPLE been able to see more of the entries…love the idea of centering and gathering pieces in different areas, but the ratio of “thumbs up” to “traffic” really appeals to me…not sure how to get that done, tho…sounds like even more volunteers needed…so, I’m in, whether or not my work finds a venue this year…my mom always said a criticism is nothing without your being part of the solution…

  11. John Thomas says:

    I still favor a two-track voting system. Let the public pick their top ten but create a panel of judges who will pick their top ten. The difference being that the judges would be required to view all of the art. The prize money could still be determined by the public if that is an important element of the original concept or it could be divided. At the very least, the media would probably follow both votes and provide broader exposure for artists. This could lead visitors to venues they might otherwise overlook.

  12. Al Wildey says:

    ArtPrize 2009 was a success by many standards. Speaking as a participant, I was amazed at the number of “eyes” on the art and disappointed at the overall unequal distribution of the audience. The idea of multiple “nodes” is a solid one, as is a reconsideration of the voting process. I admit to some frustration associated with popular votes/popular sites and I see this as a significant challenge. If the model for ArtPrize is an “American Idol” approach, why not have a jury (international?) do the first round(s) of cuts? That way, all artists have their work reviewed by experts in the field that narrow down the first round (or two) of selections? There could be a “Peoples Choice” decided by popular vote from the very beginning and the finalists/winners could still be determined by popular vote. It was a bit discouraging to see (or not see!) artwork “tucked away” in smaller venues not get much–if any–chance in the final analysis.

    One other suggestion–tailor the maps/bus routes to ensure (or at least encourage) the audience to visit works that make it through each round. It may even be worth considering repositioning/consolidating artworks as they advance through the voting (tricky with some work but frankly not for most!)

    It’s great to witness and participate in such a successful event from it’s inception–keep up the good work!

  13. Bill Terkeurst says:

    Problem with percentages…remote piece seen by one person, gets one vote yes equals 100%…the art prize winner chosen by one person. Another problem is, people don’t have to vote a piece, yes or no…so do you count just yes votes to number of people who viewed the item or add No votes? I think a No vote is better than not vote! Can you be sure that because a person entered a building, did they see every piece displayed? It is obvious that the top 10 game from the high traffic areas…but attempting to count how many people saw the piece is equally impossible. You can’t compare percentages, when they have drastically different bases. We make that mistake ALL the time.

  14. The “thumbs up” to “traffic” ratio would be incredibly simple and it would solve a lot of problems. All you have to do is develop a “seen it” button which activates the “thumbs up” or “thumbs down” vote. If a voter hasn’t “seen it”, they are not authorized to vote on the piece. Very simple. The “seen it” button activates the capability of voting on a piece, and it naturally determines a percentage ratio, by figuring the number of people who like a work against the number of people who saw the work.

    In response to “The Dude”, the very essence of the problem with hole-in-the-wall venues is that they don’t get the traffic to compete with Artprize-sponsored exhibition centers. That’s not fair to artists who invest time, money, and energy to be a part of this competition, and it could easily be fixed if Artprize were to revise the voting system.

    Artprize was originally conceptualized to be “on the streets”, bringing neighborhoods, businesses, and community together, outside the realm of traditional curated institutions. This openness is crucial to the validity of the experiment.

    Artprize has already proven that it can invigorate the crowds and boost the local economy. Now focus on your mission, which should have more to do with “the conversation of art” than the “conversation of Artprize.” Don’t you guys want to prove something with relation to art???

    The way I see it, Artprize is essentially its own government. It makes the rules, and those rules determine the outcome. No offense, guys. The only checks and balances in this mix come from an artist’s choice not to participate. As time goes on, however, I’m hypothesizing that the collection of works competing in Artprize will become less and less diverse as time goes on.

    Imagine a film festival that, because of its context, encouraged blockbuster action films over more pensive indie films. Every artist then becomes a Jerry Bruckheimer. Is this what the audience really wants? NO!!! They want diversity. And this happens when you level the playing field for all artists involved.

  15. Jay Prosch-Jensen says:

    As a ‘09 artist I feel that it is very important that “ART” wins the contest not Venue convenience or volume. Tons of great work never got seen because it wasn’t displayed at the Federal bld. or the Bob. More super venues will just compound the problem. I for one will consider this during matching, bet I won’t be the only one. Sure is a shape a lot of cool places will be considered as last resorts. We need to bring venue equality to this contest.

  16. Amanda says:

    I was very excited about ArtPrize last year, but I started to think about the discussion of art. The big problem that I see is how you can compare a 2-dimensional piece of art to a 3-dimensional piece of art? From my experience I have seen trained people having a hard time comparing a sculpture and a painting. The vocabulary can be exceptionally different, not to mention the size factor. I think that it would be healthier for ArtPrize if it is at least separated into at least 2 categories. That way the vocabulary will be similar between the work that the viewers will be observing. It might also bring more attention to some of the smaller work. Many people may believe that bigger is far more impressive that smaller and that may not be necessarily true especially when it comes to art (think Mona Lisa or Giacometti sculptures).

    When I first heard about ArtPrize it was being compared to American Idol. But I would like to point out that America Idol consists of one form of performing arts: singing. The audience dose not have to compare a singer to a dancer. If you are truly thinking about the discussion of art please consider having categories in the future this would offer a base for more meaningful discussion. I have found from my experiences that shows that have more categories for awards actually have more discussion around them because more pieces of art are brought to light. It would also broaden people’s understanding of what art includes and make the experience not so overwhelming. It would allow viewers to choose a category to observe at one time. Focusing their train of though.

  17. Ron says:

    2009 was great for art, for Michigan, and for Grand Rapids. Thank you very much.
    I hear the concerns about how the initial voting was handled and have very mixed feelings. I support the desire to have this driven by popular vote and would suggest one change that could help give an opportunity to the low traffic venues. Go ahead with the first round vote as planned, but come up with a committee to select ten additional works for the final round. The final round would still be entirely by popular vote and maybe push some of the voters to explore ten pieces they had not seen.
    ArtPrize has found a place in our hearts.
    Thank you.

  18. Adam S. says:

    Who will remember all they have “seen?” I wouldn’t. I made notes throughout ArtPrize, then voted online on the final night. The “seen it, then vote on it” thing would not work with the way I voted. Not 1%.

    I think Central Station should be an “Exhibition Center,” because the Rapid CEO loves art, there is plenty of room, including unused office space. The greatest benefit of using Central Station as an Exhibition Center is that it could “funnel” people onto a free shuttle that takes tours the “outer edges” of the ArtPrize boundaries.

  19. Liesa Robarge says:

    I am glad to see there is consideration in how to best layout and get the traffic around town. Although it would be nice to think that “traffic” to “thumbs up” would be nice I think what would be nicer would be to give people more time the first vote to see things. Make it two weekends for the first vote. If you try and make people see “everything before you leave” you will have a lot of people who don’t have or don’t think they have the time and won’t go. Art Centers are a nice idea but won’t that take away from the idea of getting people out to see the city? I think whatever you do you need to give the first round of votes 2 weekends. The second round only requires you to see 10 items so does not require the time it does to try and see most of the work.

  20. Jeff M says:

    The traffic issue is real but weighting by thumbsup/thumbs down doesn’t seem like an equitable solution. If an artist shows in a remote location and invites all his friends and relatives to view and vote can’t we assume that there would be a lot of 100% thumbs up entries. I don’t see how that solves the problem. In addition, I like the way the thumbs down votes sparked dialog but didn’t penalize the artist. It would be really negative for the event to have a “thumbs down” campaigns sprout up and the origin and motivation for those campaigns would be immediately in question.
    Possible soluition? Fewer more puposful venues like UICA and the Fed strategically placed. The foot traffic in town will still feed the bars and restaraunts even if artwork is not displayed within them.

  21. Anna Donahue says:

    What a great opportunity for artists. I loved artprize09 and can’t wait for 10. This is something to be experienced and enjoyed by everyone, artists and visitors, and shouldn’t come down to only the vote. My venue was out of the way and didn’t have nearly the traffic that headquarters had but my sculpture, ‘Rain’ sold. What could make an artist happier? Havng the exposure with artprize is worth every ounce of effort.

  22. Nancy Tobin says:

    To John Thomas: My thoughts exactly!
    As an artist who traveled miles to get to ArtPrize last year. I don’t think I’ll make the trip again, unless I secure a venue that I KNOW will be seen by more people.
    The fear for ArtPrize, is that this will make the competition more about local artists (no problem there, of course). But, I do think they want this to be a world-class event. It’s got to be worth the travel and shipping expenses.

  23. J White says:

    Artprize09 was so tremendous that I had a difficult time articulating the experience to my friends in other parts of the country. My whole family went downtown several times and enjoyed great conversation and even lunch. It brought my family together! Anything that does that is definitely a good thing.

  24. Gretchen says:

    I am a “non-artist”, so my take on this is simply from a somewhat uneducated eye. I attended ArtPrize one weekend with my husband, my 14-year old daughter, and one of her friends. We had a memorable time that weekend – walking around downtown, discussing the art, our definition of “art” (interesting to hear from 14-year olds!) We plan on making this an annual experience.

    On the voting, I agree with Aaron Heidman – just institute a “seen it” button. We were frustrated by not being able to really be able to decipher the maps and figure out where we wanted to go/be. Better maps ahead of time would have helped us plan our viewing time. Also, at noon on Sunday, we were unable to find any place to get a quick bite to eat, or even a bottle of water. One restaurant was open (Quizno’s) and the line was over 2 blocks long. Huge opportunity to have restaurants open “taste of” type booths. We left early on Sunday just so we could find someplace for lunch that wasn’t $25/person. I understand that you don’t want to take business away from the local restaurants by allowing outside vendors in, but if the restaurants aren’t even going to open, what is the point? Or allow non-profits to come in and sell food/drink as a fundraiser.

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