GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — While ArtPrize brings artists from all over the world to Grand Rapids to compete in the world’s biggest art competition, it also inspires the future artists already here.

Grand Rapids Public Schools students get the opportunity to explore art and learn about artists through the SmartArt competition, ArtPrize Education Days and class field trips.

“I really believe passionately that arts matter,” said Maggie Malone, the director of fine arts and shared time for GRPS. “The research regarding the value of arts education is very strong, it really teaches life skills, problem solving and it also helps to activate more parts of the brain. And so the value of visual arts education — as well as musical arts and other forms of art — is strongly research based. And it’s really critical for all students, but particularly students in poverty.”

She said ArtPrize can be a conversation starter, forcing people to consider, “What is art, what makes this art versus something else?”

“I think that whenever people are engaging in dialogue, there’s education,” Malone said.

The first weekend of ArtPrize 2022. (Michael Buck/WOODT TV8)


A group of fourth grade students were able to collaborate with an artist for an installation piece during one ArtPrize, Malone said. Students have found inspiration through various aspects of ArtPrize, like from a particular artist or a medium.

“We’ve had several opportunities over the years for our students to interact with an artist that I think adds that inspiration and that encouragement and that additional heightened experience by being able to interact with an artist that who has their work in ArtPrize,” Malone said.

Malone said GRPS’ art curriculum is already “innovative and cutting edge” and ArtPrize gives teachers opportunities to support that.

The competition also shows students career opportunities in the arts.

“It’s provided more opportunity and outlets to support that curriculum by real-life experience, seeing art in public view and on display,” she said. “Also career-wise, (it shows) students different options of, ‘Hey, if you’re an artist, these are some different career paths you could take.’”

She said it has encouraged Grand Rapids students to continue to create art beyond the classroom.


GRPS, Consumers Energy and ArtPrize have partnered for the SmartArt competition annually since 2013. Each year, around 40 GRPS students enter art that centers around clean energy. The top 10 are selected by local college art instructors. This year, Consumers Energy will host an event Sunday at Studio Park to celebrate the top students and name the winner and people’s choice award winner, Josh Paciorek, Consumers Energy spokesperson, said.

“It’s an opportunity for them to pursue different artwork while also learning about the importance of clean energy and how we can all work together to better protect the environment,” Paciorek said. “In our view, they’re the leaders of tomorrow. So helping them understand why protecting the planet and cleaning up the environment is important.”

Paciorek said the contest can help change the student’s lives while effectively teaching them about clean energy.

“We’ve heard from students over the years — including the very first winner, Daniel Lopez — this art contest, he says, literally changed his life,” Paciorek said.

The winner this year will receive a scholarship and a MacBook. Paciorek said the scholarship money has helped Grand Rapids students continue their education.

“It was really cool because (Lopez) talked about how it gave him the confidence to continue pursuing art in … both his personal life and professionally,” he said. “He won our first scholarship, which he used to attend college, which he didn’t think would’ve been possible without winning that scholarship in the first place.”

The top 10 students’ artwork are displayed during ArtPrize, giving the community an opportunity to see the students’ work.

  • "The Metamorphosis" by Eleanor Broberg is among the 10 finalists in the 2022 SmartArt competition. (Courtesy)
  • "The Source of Life" by Aramy Escalante is among the 10 finalists in the 2022 SmartArt competition. (Courtesy)
  • "The Story of Our Environment" by Alexis Harriman is among the 10 finalists in the 2022 SmartArt competition. (Courtesy)
  • "Twin Sisters" by Attyn Marshall is among the 10 finalists in the 2022 SmartArt competition. (Courtesy)
  • By a Thread by Ivy Maynard is among the 10 finalists in the 2022 SmartArt competition. (Courtesy)
  • Sea Change by Logan Richter is among the 10 finalists in the 2022 SmartArt competition. (Courtesy)
  • "After the Storm" by Aracely Salazar is among the 10 finalists in the 2022 SmartArt competition. (Courtesy)
  • "Growing Renewables" by Abigail Strand is among the 10 finalists in the 2022 SmartArt competition. (Courtesy)
  • "The Time We Have Left" by Tobyn Venegas is among the 10 finalists in the 2022 SmartArt competition. (Courtesy)
  • "Dive Deeper" by Ellery Younts is among the 10 finalists in the 2022 SmartArt competition. (Courtesy)

“It’s a really exciting contest,” Paciorek said. “It’s really an amazing opportunity for the entire West Michigan community to see what kind of artwork did these students come up with.”


Along with the art competition, ArtPrize has hosted Education Days to teach the artists of the future. This year, Education Days will be led by Cultivate, a new art organization in Grand Rapids.

The organization is putting together three magazines for students K-12. The magazines, which are available online, are Common Core standardized. Grand Rapids art teachers can use them to teach year-round, Mallory Shotwell, the director of Cultivate, says.

“These magazines actively teach the art and artists of art prize and principles of art and design,” Shotwell said. “You can get to know these artists on a really unique level and see and examine their art in a really unique way.”

The organization will also host drop-in workshops, taking place on the first day of ArtPrize and then every Saturday from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. The workshops will focus on community.

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Shotwell said ArtPrize has given people an opportunity to enter into the conversation about art who may not consider themselves artists.

“Hearing so many people that quote unquote don’t consider themselves artists are becoming art critics. They are all talking about art,” she said. “We’re all kind of invited to this very public conversation and that doesn’t happen everywhere. And the accessibility of that is really, really vital.”

Shotwell said ArtPrize invites “a new level of seeing” for students and the community.

“That moment is just so unbelievably critical and beautiful to watch,” she said.