By Jonathan D. Lopez – Photo Editor
Avoiding ArtPrize for the 19-day duration has been my goal for the past five years. Though I entered work last year, my aversion to large crowds kept me away from my venue and seeing ArtPrize for myself.
For 2014, I decided to radically change my attitude about ArtPrize. When I joined The Collegiate, I knew this was the year I had to attend ArtPrize. In addition to ArtPrize news coverage, I helped document the installation of works at SiTE:LAB at the Morton House for the six weeks leading up to opening day. My schedule started and ended with ArtPrize for weeks.
On opening day, I learned that I had made it onto two of the ArtPrize curated lists. Still, it wasn’t until I stood in front of my entry at DeVos Performance Hall that I understood what it felt to be an ArtPrize artist. The first day I attended my work, I observed a wide range of reactions.
Giggling grandmas and grandchildren would walk by and stop to look closer at my portrait of a tailor tending to a bare- bottomed pig. The adults seemed equally interested in the antique sewing machine in the photo as the pig that took several hours to make.
Unamused critics walked past as though they were in a race to get out of the building. Of course, that’s the way I probably looked every time I had to go somewhere during ArtPrize.
Some people were simply bewildered. A handful stared long enough at each photo to realize it was the same person acting, and those who stared longer clued in that it was me. Sometimes they would smile or burst out laughing out shortly afterwards.
After seeing so many people enjoying my photographs, I was able to put aside my negative preconceptions of being an ArtPrize artist. I quickly grew addicted to seeing the reactions of people to my work – both the good and the bad.
Four hours flew by. My legs were horribly cramped and my face was so tired from laughing that I was unable to smile for a photograph at the end of the day.
I spent probably 30 hours between reporting and standing at my venue in addition to working early mornings during the first week. My leg was constantly throbbing and I was barely getting enough sleep at night. I confess that after the first week, my giddiness for ArtPrize waned.
In hindsight, I realize just how much I missed out on because I didn’t put the effort in to stand by my work more often. Equally, I know I was incredibly blessed to have that location. I was within 80 feet of “Outcry”, the 2D winner of $20,000. Gretchyn Lauer, the artist of “Outcry”, is a student at GRCC as well.
There are plenty of naysayers that say there is no point to entering – that you can’t win against the elite artists. Rest assured, you don’t need to be a famous, highly publicized artist to win.
After seeing a fellow GRCC student win, the real question is: Why aren’t there more students from GRCC in ArtPrize?
When I asked around, there was only a handful of GRCC students participating in ArtPrize. To put it bluntly, the attitude toward entering ArtPrize was harsh. Too commercialized. Too big. Too political. Too much Jesus. There are a lot of excuses for artists to choose from.
I definitely fall into the group of people that agree that ArtPrize is too big for my taste, but where else could I get this much exposure? Seriously. I spent $50 to enter, I used photos and frames I had already entered into Festival of the Arts, and I spent maybe $15 on 600 contact cards.
Though I can’t guarantee that you can find success at ArtPrize, you’ll never be found if you don’t showcase your work frequently and rub elbows with the general public. What do you have to lose? You can go out to eat and enjoy yourself until your stomach is growling again, or you can enter ArtPrize and meet thousands of art lovers.