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Lou Harry's A&E

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Arts & Entertainment, etc.

ArtPrize: Do you trust the public to judge art?

September 22, 2009

Call it the American Idol-ing of art. Starting Sept. 23, what's being billed as the world's largest art prize competition begins in Grand Rapids...with you as judge.

According to www.artprize.org, the ArtPrize competition is "open to any artist in the world who can find space. Open to anybody in Grand Rapids, Michigan who wants to create a venue. Open to a vote from anyone who attends."

The first place winner scores $250,000. Second gets $100,000. Third gets $50,000 and the rest in the top ten each get $7,000.

Here's how the voting works: During the first week, registered visitors 16 or older vote up or down on each work. Ten pieces move on to the second round. In the second week, each voter has a single vote. All voting is electronic.

So far, more than 1200 artists -- including Zionsville's Nancy Noel -- have found space in Grand Rapids to hang their work.

I'll admit that I'm skeptical about art-as-popularity contest. The winner, I'm certain, will largely depend as much on Facebook/Twitter skills as on artistic skills and vision.

But the creators of the event seem to know that, too. Quoth the site: "We do not believe that we have contrived the 'best' way to discover the 'best' art. The prize money, the public vote, the open venue system simply creates an environment where public can engage artist and artist can engage public in a fresh way."

Taking aside the notion of "best," the idea of a town being covered in artwork is a thrilling one. And whether or not I make it to Grand Rapids in the next few weeks (unlikely, since the program ends Oct. 10), I'm very interested in seeing how this all plays out.

So do you find merit in what's happening in Grand Rapids?

Could such an event have happened here?

Would this make you consider a road trip to Michigan?

Your thoughts?

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