First-time artists showcase their work in ArtPrize 2021


GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — After a three-year hiatus, first-time artists are finally getting the chance to show their work on the ArtPrize stage.

Just starting out his career as a full-time artist, 25-year-old Jackson Wrede went big with his first ArtPrize entry.

Standing 9 feet tall and 7 feet wide, Wrede’s thought-provoking piece, “Son of Man,” is on display at the Amway Grand Plaza.

“The painting throws around a few theories that can explain human evolution or human origin,” Wrede said, “It looks at who we are as creatures now and where we may be headed in the future.”

“Son of Man” by Jackson Wrede, displayed at the Amway Grand Plaza Hotel during ArtPrize 2021.

The Chicago native first heard of ArtPrize in 2019 after moving to Grand Rapids to attend graduate school at Kendall College of Art and Design.

Wrede in May received his Master of Fine Arts in painting, using “Son of Man” as the centerpiece for his thesis exhibit.

After ArtPrize was canceled in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Wrede would have to wait another year before entering his first piece.

“Finally now that it’s here in September 2021, I was chomping at the bit to get a spot in ArtPrize,” he said.

The wait seems to be paying off as Wrede was awarded $250 in prize money on Monday.

From “Son of Man” to Thinking Man, first-time artist Dave Tonegatto shows us you don’t need an art degree to be an ArtPrize artist.

Tonegatto, a welder from Westland, says the opportunity to show his work at ArtPrize was the motivation he needed to finish his self-portrait titled Thinking Man.

“One day, I just got motivated again and heard about ArtPrize coming up and that’s what motivated me to finish him after kind of being buried in a corner of my garage for a while,” Tonegatto said.

Landing one of the coveted spots outside The B.O.B, Tonegatto sees this as a possible turning point in making his part-time hobby into a career.

“I would like to do (art) full time, but for now, I’m easing into it,” he said.

Entering his first ArtPrize piece at the age of 70, Henri Laime and La Sirena prove it’s never too late to get in on the competition.

“I happened to make a piece that came out good and everybody said, ‘You should put it in ArtPrize,’ so here I am,” Laime said.

La Sirena by Henri Laime, an ArtPrize 2021 entry displayed at the Amway Grand Plaza Hotel. (Sept. 14, 2021)

A tugboat captain by trade, the Norton Shores resident channeled his love for the water in creating a three-dimensional mermaid out of more than 1,000 spoons.

“The name of the piece is La Sirena, which in Spanish is mermaid,” he said.

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