Another blow to downtown GR: ArtPrize 2020 canceled

ArtPrize

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — This year’s ArtPrize has been canceled, organizers announced Wednesday, and the future of the world’s largest art competition is uncertain.

The organization said in a release that it was putting a hold on all operations “to evaluate the possibility of future events.”

>>See the winners of ArtPrize 10

ArtPrize board member Marc Schwartz said the organization had hoped to work out a way to hold the event safely, saying it was going to focus on outdoor and large indoor venues, but it ultimately became clear that doing so “was not the best course forward.”

A 2018 file image of a poster at Gerald R. Ford International Airport advertising ArtPrize in Grand Rapids.

There were a slew of obstacles that organizers just couldn’t come up with a way to combat, including whether it would be safe for artists and tourists to travel to Grand Rapids, the possibility of venue restrictions, a lack of clarity about whether the event would be able to get a permit, and other questions about health safety and planning.

“Although very disappointing, we believe it is the best decision to ensure the well-being of our constituents,” Schwartz said in a statement.

Registration fees for the event, which was scheduled to run Sept. 16 to Oct. 4, will be refunded.

COULD LOSS OF ARTPRIZE REVENUE BE LAST STRAW FOR DOWNTOWN BUSINESSES?

The news of ArtPrize 2020’s cancellation left downtown Grand Rapids businesses, already reeling from monthslong closures due to the coronavirus pandemic and thousands of dollars in damages due to a riot in late May, devastated.

“Usually ArtPrize is like what every business in downtown Grand Rapids is waiting for,” said Alberto Mendoz, who manages the Cinco De Mayo restaurant on Monroe Center.

Cinco De Mayo in downtown Grand Rapids. (June 10, 2020)

Business owners say they’re busy from open to close during ArtPrize. Some say you can count on a one- to two-hour wait most days.

“We open our doors and it’s literally a line out the door from when we open until when we close,” Zaid Kaskorkis, who owns Parsley Mediterranean Grille, also on Monroe Center, said.

With thousands expected to travel to Grand Rapids for the show this year, business owners say they were anticipating the uptick in customers. 

Parsley Mediterranean Grille in downtown Grand Rapids. (June 10, 2020)

“It’s great to see everybody downtown. The businesses need it, especially. We were hoping for it after this year, to get that boost to make up for it but I mean it’s OK,” said Kaskorkis.”It is what it is. We’ll take it day by day and month by month.”

Some say the loss of the potential revenue could close already struggling businesses. 

“It is so sad and you think about are you going to be able to be open? How many businesses are going to keep open because it’s been hard,” Mendoza said.

Business owners say despite this year’s challenges, they’re going to keep pressing forward.

EVENT FOUNDER: ‘COME TOGETHER IN CHALLENGING TIMES’

News 8 reached out to ArtPrize founder Rick DeVos and the board of directors for on-camera interviews regarding the future of ArtPrize, but they declined to comment.

“I want to thank everyone who has played a role in attempting to host ArtPrize this year despite challenges unlike anything we have ever experienced before,” DeVos said in a statement as ArtPrize announced the cancellation. “The ArtPrize community is talented and innovative, and we appreciate each and every one of you. While we won’t come together to experience art as we have in prior years, I hope that all of us can find our own unique way to connect with Grand Rapids in the months ahead. Our community is known as one that comes together in challenging times and we all need each other now more than ever.”

ArtPrize was first held in 2009 and ArtPrize 10 was held in 2018. The competition was not held last year and was instead replaced with a public art event called Project 1.

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