GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — A former organizer for the massive and popular South by Southwest festival is the new executive director of ArtPrize.
Catlin Whitington was picked to lead Grand Rapids’ art competition in the first year under a new leadership group that includes the city, Downtown Grand Rapids Inc. and Kendall College of Art and Design.
He told News 8 he wants to create “amazing, creative experiences” and “exciting engagement for the public.”
“I think as with any good event, growth comes organically through good community feedback and engagement. I really am excited to get my boots on the ground out there in Grand Rapids and start talking to the community and the stakeholders and really seeing where the value lies in this event moving forward,” he said. “I hope to create amazing, immersive experiences for both those in Grand Rapids and also artists and attendees from the national sector and international sector.”
Whitington is currently the vice president of campus operations for the Long Center for the Performing Arts in Austin, Texas, where he “managed all aspects of event and facility operations and has championed public engagement and access for the performing arts,” Grand Rapids said in a release.
Before taking over the Long Center, he was a planning manager for South by Southwest, a large music, film and technology festival. He has been the chair of the Austin Tourism Commission, is an adviser to the Austin Hotel and Lodging Association and is a founder of the policy advocacy group Music Makes Austin.
“(Whitington) is the right person at the right time to move ArtPrize 2.0 forward,” Grand Rapids City Manager Mark Washington, who chairs the ArtPrize steering committee and who came to Grand Rapids from Austin about five years ago, said in a Wednesday statement. “Catlin’s work with SXSW and The Long Center … are exactly the type of event-based, distinctive, culture-building experiences we were looking for to build an enduring future for ArtPrize 2.0 here in Grand Rapids.”
Whitington’s wife was a panelist on ArtPrize’s “Why These Finalists” in 2017. Whitington said in a statement that sparked their family’s interest in ArtPrize and that they “fell in love with the Grand Rapids community.”
“(We) are looking forward to connecting and raising our family here,” he added.
The independent organization than ran ArtPrize announced in October of last year that it was dissolving and turning the event over to the new leadership partnership. The city will handle practicalities like parking and permits, DGRI will manage the business side of things and Kendall is the expert on art. The city and DGRI previously said much of the event will be familiar to visitors, though they are looking at ways to “build” on or “scale up” the traditional model.
“I think that really finding a space for any event comes down to defining what elements it can hone and be really good at and what is really valuable to the community,” Whitington told News 8. “What I’m going to bring to the table is a long history of creating urban experiences that really highlight and create access for the creative sector…”
He said he hoped to continue to create “innovative and immersive activations” and attract a broad spectrum of artists.
ArtPrize 2023 is scheduled for Sept. 14 to Oct. 1.