By Austin Metz
Editor In Chief
As he picked up the phone, his voice was clear, relaxed and filled with the honesty any reporter would want to hear. Having just recently wrapped up the second year of one of the most successful events in Grand Rapids history, Rick DeVos has quickly stepped into the spotlight of the Grand Rapids art scene.
While it started out as one of many crazy ideas, ArtPrize quickly turned into something different.
“This was my crazy idea to bring something fun and exciting to Grand Rapids,” said DeVos. “My first thought was ‘Can we do this?’ then ‘Can we do it again?’ and finally the thought was ‘Dial it in and make everything work smoothly.’”
His crazy idea just finished up its second year and according to the ArtPrize website, it concluded with over 1700 artists and almost 200 venues to house the pieces of art.
“It’s been a wild ride,” he said. “It has totally exceeded our expectations.”
ArtPrize has turned into one of DeVos’ main ideas but he hasn’t limited himself to just this one.
“I have lots of ideas, notebooks full of them,” DeVos said.
These ideas have expanded to websites focused around the thought of helping others succeed with their business goals as well as connecting the Grand Rapids public.
This idea of connecting and helping others is something that gets DeVos fired up and connecting people in the Grand Rapids area has turned into a passion.
He is quick to point out the strength he feels of Grand Rapids.
“We are a generous, tight knit community,” he said.
This tightness however, can be a weakness of a city like Grand Rapids according to DeVos.
“The city is not always open to new ideas and folks aren’t always as accessible,” said DeVos. “We have an outsized fear of failure and it has breed complacency in us.”
Failure however, doesn’t seem to bother DeVos.
“Failure is inevitable when trying new things,” he explained. “We need to continue to learn. We need people trying wacky and crazy things.”
While failure does happen, one of DeVos’ goals is to help others succeed.
“I love entrepreneurship. I love ideas, starting ideas and helping others succeed,” he said. “It’s about being that spark to helping others succeed.”
His next idea for Grand Rapids is based on this idea.
Called 5×5 Night, DeVos has created an event that will take place on the last Tuesday of each month.
The goal of this event is to give five individuals five minutes to sum up their ideas in five slides. Five judges will then decide the winner who will be awarded up to $5,000.
“A culture that innovates is a culture that shares a lot of ideas,” said DeVos in a press release. “I think we can do more of that sharing in our region and 5×5 is designed to help.”
The inaugural event will take place on February 22, 2011 at the Grand Rapids Art Museum at 5:30 p.m. and admission will be $5.00.
Another place where he has helped provide this connection for the public is through TheCommon.org. This is a website based on DeVos’ ideas that the public can use to help connect with those seeking help and also individuals looking to help others in the community.
Although he will continue to look for ways to expand and create, DeVos seems happy to stay in the Grand Rapids area.
“We talk to other towns but we are testing things locally and then maybe we will expand,” he explained but quickly pointed out, “Grand Rapids is my home base and I love Grand Rapids.”