ArtPrize is back, and for some that means crowded streets and limited parking, for others it means a boom in the local economy, but for many it provides a way to express themselves on a grand stage.
The 19-day event is centered around the mutual appreciation of arts and culture, but it is much more than just the art represented.
Almost more impactful than the pieces, are the people of ArtPrize and the artists themselves.
“Art is my religion,” said Alberto Gomez, 57, originally from Bogota, Colombia. “I believe in many things, of course, but my mind is only in art.”
Gomez’ piece, titled “Sounds,” an acrylic five-panel mural on wood, features musicians varying from 18th and 19th century artists to his own grandson playing a guitar and totals 4 by 16 feet.
The layers of the acrylics show the hard work, taking Gomez eight months to complete, spending weeks on the layering of the sky alone.
“Who makes music, and how they do it, is a fascinating history,” Gomez said about his inspiration for the piece. “I am focusing on painting. It is my passion and my drive. But I also play music to inspire while I do it. I like Renaissance, Polk, Folk, much more. Blues is my favorite from the United States.”
Gomez, who now lives in Deltona, Florida with his wife Stella-Luz, says his inspiration comes from people, feelings, and noble causes.
Mark Vainner of Grand Rapids entered ArtPrize for the second time this year. His piece “Search and Find You” is a large steel sculpture shaped like a #U.
“I had a nephew that committed suicide at Christmas,” Vainner said. “It put a little bit of darkness in the family. I was at the funeral, and I said ‘How could he not see all this love and all these people in this church crying for him? How did he not see this?’ I thought, I’ve got to do something to get people to start realizing that there is a purpose and a reason for all of us. No matter who we are, young or old, our actions affect other people around us.”
As ArtPrize continues to grow each year, it provides ways to inspire young artists to pursue their dreams.
Jessica Abraham, 16, of Grand Rapids, and a junior at Grandville High School said that ArtPrize is the reason she is pursuing a career in art.
“I really like ArtPrize…and I actually want to go into art someday,” Abraham said. “I like the atmosphere of ArtPrize the most, and really just the people.”
There are many ways to get involved with ArtPrize, and it’s not just for artists.
Patsy Davis, originally from Maui, is a current resident of Grand Rapids, and is a first time ArtPrize volunteer. Davis said she was most impressed by the energy brought to ArtPrize this year.
“Its been fun,” Davis said. “The energy here is the best, I love it. You just sign up for a different job each day…its just grown so much since when it first started.”
Davis said the best part for her is meeting different people through volunteering.
“There are so many different nationalities and just different people,” Davis said.
“They are all very friendly. I met a man from China, and another lady from France. I just thought that was so amazing that these people came from all over to show their art here.”
Attendance at ArtPrize for the first week has been higher than other opening weeks in the past. With the lines out the door at the Grand Rapids Art Museum and the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum during the first weekend, it’s clear ArtPrize is continuing to grow every year.