GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Local artist Richard App, whose group in entry in ArtPrize 1 continues to be recognizable a decade later, said change is inevitable for the annual art competition in Grand Rapids — and often favorable.

“In 2009, myself and a group of my friends put together a Loch Ness monster,” App said. “It was one of those things that we were actually going to make as a joke and then when ArtPrize came
up, we said, ‘We should do this and we should do it in the river.’”

Nessie became so beloved that it found a new home near John Ball Zoo for years before it was upcycled into park benches.

“There’s nothing like that first year. I think it was kind of like the Wild West. People didn’t know what to expect,” App said.

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While the competition has grown in size and reputation over the years, not all the changes were necessary beneficial.

“To where we are today, a lot of things (have happened). We’ve had some success, we’ve had some failures. I think the one year when we had just a couple of limited entries didn’t really work,” he said, referring to 2019’s public art initiative called Project 1.

App said he is happy to see a large cash prize returning to the festival — the public vote winner will get $125,000 — and the addition of local art directors and galleries’ involvement.

“If they’re going to talk about art in Grand Rapids, let’s make sure that they’re talking about art from Grand Rapids,” App said.

Since its first year, ArtPrize has taken on different forms as organizers changed how the public could vote, voting and entry categories. This year, the event is under new leadership — a consortium of the city, Downtown Grand Rapids Inc. and Kendall College of Art and Design.

“There’s a lot of artists who have placed well or done things here that have gone on to larger national, international fame. So ArtPrize is feeding the art world, not just the art world in Grand Rapids,” App said.

ArtPrize 2023 runs through Oct. 1.