GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) - ArtPrize revealed Wednesday how much it is in debt and how it plans to pay it off.
At its annual sponsor brunch -- normally a day when ArtPrize mixes things up and changes rules -- organizers of the world's largest art competition said they are focused on becoming financially sustainable through sponsors.
Rick DeVos, founder and chairman of ArtPrize, Daryn Kuipers, interim executive director of ArtPrize, Sam Cummings, principal and managing partner of CWD Real Estate Investment, and Dr. David Rosen, president of Kendall College of Art & Design at Ferris State University, spoke at the event.
"ArtPrize is the marquee event for Grand Rapids," DeVos told the crowd.
"The event has given us international visibility," added Cummings.
ArtPrize organizers announced they are seeking sponsors for everything from venues to its website. ArtPrize has incurred a debt in all four years -- adding up to $3.8 million.
2009: $1.2 million
2010: $1.5 million
"We took a substantial debt the first two years to make the platform and get going," said Kuipers.
Kuipers said revenues increased to $3.2 million in the last year.
The organization is asking for help tackling the debt, described as the "animal." Officials are looking for sponsors for just about everything; ranging from $500, categorized as Friend, up to $100,000, called Premier.
"We are looking toward 2013 as being the year we pay off some of our debt," said Kuipers.
The debt is owed to the Dick and Betsy DeVos Foundation, Rick DeVos' parents.
ArtPrize claims its structure is more small-business than non-profit. But this year it has some help: A donor to match any new sponsorships.
"All new corporate sponsors, all increases in giving, all individual gifts, will be matched dollar for dollar," said Kuipers. "It's an anonymous partner that knows that startup companies need to take on debt to get started."
There will be no major changes to the rules of the competition held in downtown Grand Rapids.
"Up front, we were testing the boundaries, but now we know where those are," said Kuipers.
But there is one new experiment this year that could bring an artist from the land of "10,000 Lakes" to ArtPrize. It's a mini competition trying to bring more Minnesota artists to ArtPrize, made possible by a partnership with the Walker Art Center.
ArtPrize is outsourcing the Gillett Bridge, a pedestrian crossing that spans the Grand River between DeVos Place to the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum.
"This particular site -- the Gillett Bridge -- is an interesting site. It's well-traveled," said Scott Stulen of the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis, a contemporary art gallery that shows the kind of public art that Stulen says is part of a recent art revitalization in the city.
The difficulty for most of the artists who make the trip to Grand Rapids for ArtPrize is the cost of getting here.
"There's a hurdle to overcome for artists, in particular to travel a couple states over to do an installation," said Stulen.
Five Minneapolis artists will have five minutes to show how they can transform the Gillett Bridge. They'll get $5,000 to put their idea together.
"It not only kind of provides some funds in order to make that happen, but it also provides some unique exposure to do it in this particular site," said Stulen.
Stulen is convinced his Minnesota-based judges will find something great for this pedestrian bridge.
"Something compelling and deep to it that fits a fine art context to it, but also should be interesting to the public," he said.
ArtPrize organizers don't know what to expect.
"You name it. We're looking for it. Big. Crazy," said Kuipers.
Also at the brunch, officials said they set records for engagement and attendance in 2012: 400,000 visitors during 19 days and a 46% increase in registered voters (47,160). ArtPrize volunteers donated 14,267 hours -- a 17% increase.
As for social media, ArtPrize was up 25% on Facebook in 2012. Twitter followers were up 40%. Officials estimate the event had 200 million media impressions.
ArtPrize 2013 will be Sept. 18 to Oct. 6 in downtown Grand Rapids. Officials also announced the dates for the next five years:
2014 -- Sept. 24 to Oct. 12
2015 -- Sept. 22 to Oct. 11
2016 -- Sept. 21 to Oct. 5
2017 -- Sept. 20 to Oct. 8
Venue registration opens March 11. ArtPrize will reveal its 2013 poster and a new documentary film on April 22.
MNartists - Online Midwest art community facilitated by the Walker Art Center
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