The ArtPrize Nine awards were announced last night with Richard Schlatter winning the top $200,000 grand prize public vote with his portrait of Abraham Lincoln made entirely out of pennies of all different shades.
Meanwhile, Seitu Jones was selected as the grand prize winner of the juried vote with “Heartside Community Meal” a community meal he hosted in Grand Rapids’ Heartside Park.
There were five categories where the public and jurors could each chose a winner. The categories were 2D, 3D, time-based, installation and outstanding venue.
Schlatter, 73, of Battle Creek and his piece, “A. Lincoln,” was the public’s top vote in the 2D category, too.
“It feels amazing,” Schlatter said. “I still can’t believe it.”
Schlatter stumbled upon the idea of making this piece because he was mesmerized by the different colors of the pennies that he was sorting out to take to the bank.
The piece took Schlatter ten months and around 60,000 pennies to create. Schlatter also mentioned that he unintentionally started the project on Lincoln’s birthday and put the last penny onto the piece on the date of his death.
“I loved that it attracted so much attention and the kids loved it too,” Schlatter said. “I would hand out informational brochures so it was education and on special occasions I would give a rare ‘43 penny to someone who was very interested in it. I’m just so blessed.”
“Somebody pinch me,” Schlatter said when he won the grand prize award. “This can’t be real.”
Schlatter said that he will be donating part of his earnings to S.A.F.E Place, a women’s shelter for those who have suffered from domestic abuse. He also gave advice to future ArtPrize artists.
“Just don’t give up,” Schlatter said. “I almost gave up so many times, but it all paid off in the end, so keep at it.”
After receiving his award, Jones entered the media room with a big smile on his face.
“I feel overwhelmed,” Jones said. “I feel love for myself, love for the community, love for everything!”
Jones organized the meal because Heartside Park is represented as a place where a lot of homeless and low-income people hang out and on the other side of the street, there are expensive apartments and condos.
“I wanted to bring people together,” Jones said. “I wanted them to have these ‘over the table conversations’ that we need to be having together.”
At first, the responses weren’t the best, but Jones said that he had people from both sides coming up to him and thanking him.
After speaking to reporters, Jones held up his champagne glass and toasted Grand Rapids.
Sofia Ramierez was the winner of the juror’s 2D vote for her piece “Sofia Draws Every Day: year 2, 3, 4.”
“I am so surprised but happy,” Ramierez said.
Ramierez said that her inspiration for the piece was about her dealing with depression that she went through.
“I have received nothing but good vibes and positive comments,” Ramirez said. “I was scared at first, but it’s all been so great.”
Some of the drawings were meant for ArtPrize, but some were just drawings that she never meant to enter.
Ti-Rock Moore won the juror’s vote in the 3D category for her piece “Flint.”
“Flint” is a white drinking fountain with rusty colored water filtering through it with a Jim Crow era “Colored” sign hung above it.
“I’m so honored, surprised, and thrilled that “Flint” spoke so loudly,” Moore said.
The inspiration for “Flint” is the still-standing issue of the contaminated water in Flint.
Daniel Oropeza was awarded the public’s vote for 3D with his piece “Lux Maximus.” The large horse sculpture was created from fused glass, copper and bronze with multi-colored lights inside the stomach of the horse.
“I feel fantastic!” Oropeza said. “It totally took me by surprise.”
Oropeza said that he intentionally made a large piece because he wanted to make sure that it compared to the other impressive pieces around him. It also wasn’t a very easy trip to make from Nebraska to Michigan.
“I never realized how far away it was,” Oropeza joked. “Also when we were loading it off the trailer, the neck of the horse snapped and I felt like I was building it all over again.”
Oropeza said that the sculpture doesn’t have a home yet.
“It would be a dream to have it next to the Da Vinci Horse at Frederick Meijer Gardens,” Oropeza said.
Rena Detrixhe and her piece “Red Dirt Rug” won both the public and jury vote in the Time-based category. The entry captivated visitors that passed her as she worked on the piece during the competition.
“I’m so blessed and humbled to have been awarded this,” Detrixhe said. “I am just profusely grateful.”
Detrixhe said that opening up the performative piece to the public was very important to her.
“For me, that was the most meaningful part,” Detrixhe said. “I prepared physically and mentally and I’m so happy that people got to see that in my work and be with me during the process.”
In taking the piece down, she said that although she prepared for it to be a temporary work, it still produces a feeling of melancholy, but then says that the feelings are necessary for life.
Artist duo Ryan Spencer Reed and Richard App won the public vote award in the installation category for their with “Oil + Water.”
“Oil + Water” was a six-panel photographic image that is colored like an oil-slick on the water placed into the Grand River to bring awareness to water pollution and keeping water clean.
“So far so good,” App said. “I don’t think we’re surprised, just happy. There were a lot of great installations.”
Reed added, “What we wanted to focus on with the piece was that we wanted to work on building a community about clean water and how to keep it clean.”
The jury’s vote for best installation was Jeffrey Augustine Songco’s “Society of 23’s Locker Dressing Room.”
“I feel so great,” Songco said. “This has been five years in the making because it’s my fifth ArtPrize.”
Songco’s piece represents the LGBT community and the divide between a locker room and a backstage changing room.
The Outstanding Venue award went to The Fed Galleries at Kendall College of Art and Design.