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ArtPrize artists address animal rights in Q&As

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Artist Brad Venderbrooke and his 2022 ArtPrize entry "Please Don’t Touch the Wildlife" made out of bedsheets and sharpie, located in the Amway Grand Plaza Hotel. (David "Blace" Carpenter/The Collegiate)

Editor’s note: The Collegiate staff interviewed a variety of Artprize artists who shared the stories behind their entries.

Q&A with artist Brad Venderbrooke

By David “Blace” Carpenter

What is the name of this piece? 

This whole exhibit is called “Please Don’t Touch the Wildlife.” (pictured as feature art above)

What is it made out of? 

Bedsheets and sharpie.

How long did it take for you to create this piece?

The blue whale tail took about six months. Ceil the lion, which was my first, took a month because I was very focused and angry on that one. The gorilla took me two and a half months. The leopard took me a month and a half. I’m not sure about the other pieces. I have 13 animals altogether.

What’s the message you’re trying to convey to your audience?

It’s more or less creating awareness that these should not be killed. A lion doesn’t need to be in your living room. A gorilla doesn’t need to be killed for an ashtray. These animals should be living. I mean hunting is one thing, but just to kill to get something to sell is just completely wrong. 

Q&A with artist Stacie Tamaki

By Sophia Deiters

ArtPrize 2022 is in full swing and despite some rainy weather, nothing can keep Stacie Tamaki away from her piece as she eagerly greets spectators walking through the Devos Place. Originally from Northern California, Stacie moved to Michigan in 2014 and has been a contestant in ArtPrize six times. This year she shares her beautifully crafted, origami art piece entitled “Sold to Slaughter” which she says she made to spread awareness for an issue not many people know about. 

Artist Stacie Tamaki and her origami 2022 ArtPrize entry “Sold to Slaughter” in DeVos Place. (Sophia Deiters/The Collegiate)

What’s your piece about?

The title kind of explains the piece. I wanted to raise awareness because most Americans are not aware that about 35,000 horses in America are purchased at livestock auctions every year and taken to Canada and Mexico where they’re slaughtered. And right now was time for me to do the piece because instead of just being depressed, there’s very strongly supported, bipartisan legislation in both the House and the Senate to ban that particular type of export. So I wanted to not just raise awareness, I wanted to let people know that this is the moment if they wanted to contact their legislators through their websites or make phone calls and ask them to co-sponsor the bill to give it more support. And or vote “yes” if they make it out of committee and go to the board for a vote. Then they will ban this on a federal level, nationwide. And it will also ban the slaughter of horses within the U.S.

Why are other countries buying horses from the U.S?

(Other countries) send buyers to our auctions and buy our horses, and take them back to their country. There’s an excess of horses here because we don’t slaughter them here. And they’re actually buying them for human consumption. So they slaughter them for people to eat. Canada will export some of that horse meat to other countries in Europe. In Europe, countries like Poland, Germany and France, even Iceland and Asia, China, Japan – they eat horse meat the way we eat beef or pork or chicken here. It’s just a normal part of their diet for them. So they’ll purchase horses here and take them to Canada to slaughter, then they export it. I’ve been around horses enough to know they’re very sensitive. They’re inherently fearful animals and so the thought of them going through a stressful auction process to then, if they’re purchased by one of these kill-buyers, they’re crammed into trucks and sometimes driven for days over the border just to be slaughtered. And I’m not making judgments on what a country eats or doesn’t eat. I just…from the standpoint of what is humane think that the trauma these horses are forced to endure isn’t necessary. Other countries, if they want to eat horse, should just raise it there and then humanely slaughter it. 

How did you get into this?

I’ve always loved horses since I was a kid and when I was 10 years old I bought a book because there was a horse on the cover. I was just a crazy, horse-loving girl and so I would read any book with a horse on the cover. There was this one called “America’s Last Wild Horses” and it was about the wild mustangs and there were pictures in it that were not at all age appropriate for a 10-year-old kid. There’s all these black and white photos of them being rounded up in the desert, being tied and dragged onto a truck to go to a dog food processing plant. And it literally scarred my brain and heart. So I’ve always been aware that we have these things here.

What are your plans after ArtPrize?

I actually do miniature origami as my full time job and profession. After coming to my first few ArtPrizes, visitors would often ask me is there anything, like, small they could buy. And because year after year they kept asking me if I make something they could buy, I finally opened an Etsy shop. When ArtPrize is done I’ll take a few weeks off because this is exhausting, coming everyday, but then I’m going to do some product lines. I only have one place I confine wholesale to. It’s Gallery 154 in Eastown, Grand Rapids. So I’ll make a whole batch of stuff for them so that they have it in time for Christmas.

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