ArtPrize during a pandemic: How 2021 stacked up, what’s new for 2022

ArtPrize

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — With the first ArtPrize competition to be held during a pandemic now in the books, the organization is already eyeing changes for the 2022 event.

ArtPrize Executive Director Craig Searer shared the results of last year’s ArtPrize with members of the Grand Rapids Downtown Development Authority Wednesday morning. He said during the 18 days of ArtPrize 2021, organizers counted slightly over half a million visitors and Downtown Grand Rapids Inc.’s foot traffic tally was 1.7 million people, “crazy similar” to 2018 and 2019, according to Searer.

(Crowds on Monroe Center in downtown Gran Rapids on Sept. 18, 2021, for ArtPrize. Photo courtesy: Luke Stier/WOOD TV8)

“It was very exciting for the team to execute and see everybody downtown, just bodies and faces and smiles and families,” Searer said, thanking the city and DGRI for its support.

(A graphic ArtPrize presented to the Grand Rapids Downtown Development Authority on Jan. 12, 2022 shows statistics from the 2021 event.)

The effects of the pandemic were felt in the number of ArtPrize volunteers, artist and entries, which Searer said were all down slightly. He said ArtPrize expected the decline because of social distancing and more spacing between entries, as well as venue turnover.

“We hope to be back to our regularly scheduled numbers for 2022,” he told the DDA.

(Before You Go by Christian Reichle and Monica Pritchard, displayed on the Blue Bridge during ArtPrize 2021. Photo courtesy: Michael Buck/WOOD TV8)

The return of ArtPrize in 2021 brought a new award system. Searer said 94,000 prizes were awarded through the ArtPrize app with an unprecedented 199 artists receiving prize money.

“That is more than all other ArtPrizes combined, so mission accomplished going into 2021 for ArtPrize this year. We tried to put more money into more artists’ pockets than ever before… and we accomplished that,” he said.

ArtPrize artists also cashed in on their talent in a new way. Searer said about half of the artists took part in the inaugural auction. A total of 91 pieces sold through the ArtPrize auction for a total of $51,619 which went entirely to the artists, according to Searer.

“(That’s) unprecedented in the art world,” he told the DDA.

Searer said the ArtPrize organization raised $2.1 million in revenue during its 2021 competition, with about 63% of that funding coming from sponsors, similar to previous competitions.

WHAT’S NEW IN 2022

ArtPrize is shifting back to an annual format starting this year. Searer said participants can expect a streamlined venue registration process, redesigned website and new app.

“The app this year (in 2021) was engaging and frustrating for some people, I will freely admit that, thanks to a giant update from Apple to lock down Safari location services that really hindered some of the excitement,” Searer said.

ArtPrize 2022 is also planning a “deeper investment” into experiential art, “something World of Winter does unbelievably well,” Searer said, referring to the winter festival in Grand Rapids that includes several art installations.

The competition also plans to continue focusing on inclusivity, diversity, equity and accessibility and bringing back more educational opportunities into a physical space after the pandemic forced its Education Days to go digital.

“(It was) really exciting to see students back into the city and we have plans for a more robust education system and programming for ArtPrize 2022,” Searer said.

ArtPrize 2022 is scheduled for Sept. 15 through Oct. 2.

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