New York City’s finest arts and media institution, Gawker, published a lengthy piece today exposing the “right-wing” “scam” that is ArtPrize. You know, the art competition hosted in the city of Grand Rapids every year. Apparently because the founder’s last name is DeVos, ArtPrize is a nefarious scheme to dupe stupid Midwesterners into enjoying terrible art in the pursuit of…well…something sinister. The author isn’t really sure what.
To be clear: Dick and Betsy DeVos are terrible people who have waayyyy too much money. When they’re not donating it to charitable causes to get their names in the paper, they’re giving it to some really awful, sinister causes. The Republican Party in Michigan is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Amway. But ArtPrize has absolutely nothing to do with Amway, beyond a sponsorship. It was started by the DeVos’s son Rick, who, despite his last name, is not guilty of the multitude of sins of his parents.
The City of Grand Rapids, like much of the Midwest, is dying. It used to be the furniture capital of the world. But Grand Rapids and the rest of Michigan are in trouble. So Rick DeVos, somebody with a little bit of money in his pocket, came along and actually tried to get something going in the city. By that measure, ArtPrize has been incredibly successful. It draws thousands of people from all over Michigan and beyond to come to downtown Grand Rapids and (heh heh) gawk at everything from small paintings to giant installation art pieces.
But it’s more than that. It’s something for people from Grand Rapids and the rest of West Michigan to get excited about. Yes, it’s open to anyone, so it’s bound to draw some, um, less-than-amazing art pieces. But when it’s time for ArtPrize the media in Grand Rapids goes nuts. Walk into any office or other workplace in West Michigan and it’s bound to be a topic of conversation. People in West Michigan LOVE ArtPrize.
As for Mr. Moskowitz’s charge that ArtPrize is not a “serious” art competition and draws terrible art, take a walk over to ArtPrize’s site and check out the 2014 Grand Prize winner, Anila Qayyum Agha’s installation art piece “Intersections.” If you don’t think “Intersections” is really, exceptionally cool, well, then, I just don’t know what to say to you. It’s exactly the kind of thing that should be celebrated and rewarded in a town that really doesn’t have a whole lot else going for it.
As for Gawker’s hot take on ArtPrize: In case New Yorkers ever wonder why people in the Flyover States have such a disdain for East Coast Liberal Elites, well, now you know.