I'd really been hoping to make it up there (about a two-and-a-half hour drive for us) for Artprize - the incredible 19-day public art competition-meets-social experiment open September 21- October 9. A dear friend of mine actually has a piece entered and I wanted to see her as well as all the other amazing entries. The art scene in Grand Rapids was one of the reasons why I first came home and told Jeff we need to move there. It seems to be everywhere you go, and during Artprize it is literally everywhere you go. Amazing.
Metal Monkey Mania by Dale Rogers, Blue Bridge
One of the most important lessons I constantly teach my kids is that you can make art out of anything. I do not want them conditioned to believing that art belongs on just a canvas or paper or even in a gallery or hung on a wall. And at the same time, if canvas or paper is their preferred method... I buy them all the canvas and paper they need. Artprize was the ultimate example of the range of possibilities - and how unique all of our imaginations can be.
Conversation With Myself by Lori Acott, Grand Rapids Public Museum
We drove up to Grand Rapids on Friday night and got in a little late, but the sidewalks were still busy with people viewing all the outdoor Artprize entries downtown. Near our hotel (the Holiday Inn on Pearl Street) there were plenty of entries to be seen, including the top ten nominee- Rusty (my kids' favorite, and probably mine). We checked in (adjoining rooms, baby!) and walked to a late dinner. It was after 9pm but the streets were filled with people. I held back the tears several times over the course of the weekend at just the thought and sight of so many visitors gathering to see art.
Portal by Christopher Weed, Grand Rapids Public Museum
Saturday morning we slept in a bit and headed downstairs for a big breakfast at the Pearl Street Grill. Oh, before I forget to mention - there were even Artprize entries in the hotel lobby! As we were heading out to explore Grand Rapids in the daytime, a nice man held the elevator for us and chatted with the kids. He asked if we were here for Artprize and I asked him if he had something entered. Why yes, he did. It was Ritch Branstrom - top ten nominee and creator of Rusty! He was heading over to hang out by his piece and connect with the many fans the big dog with a deep story was attracting.
Rusty, Ritch Branstrom & the kids.
During Artprize, all Grand Rapids museums and many attractions are free admission. The hotel was next door to the Grand Rapids Public Museum and we got in line just as the doors were opening for the day. We were able to see Rain - another top ten nominee, and of course rode the big carousel downstairs.
Yellow by Nathan Sawaya, Grand Rapid Public Museum
We decided to take a drive in hopes to find the church that my friend Christina Vagenius was showing her phenomenal piece "The Gift," which has also been made into a book. I was in awe watching her drink the admiration as visitors walked the long hall displaying each panel of her work. Being able to hug her there in that moment was one of the best parts of the weekend for me.
Next, we made good on our promise to show the kids REAL LIVE VENUS FLY TRAPS at the Frederik Meijer Gardens and Sculpture Park. Despite all of the art and awesome things we did I am pretty sure this is the first thing they would tell you about. Those carnivorous plants are mind boggling, I tell you.
We ate lunch in the cafe and were wowed by the menu- rootbeer squash soup,warm goat cheese spread with crackers, hummus plate, Tandoori chicken sandwich, and so on! (There were plenty of more normal eats offered, too, but I was thankful for the healthy and allergy-free options.)
We took a tram for the big sculpture park tour and Ivy fell asleep. It was really a beautiful day. The ride stopped just outside the Children's Garden and the kids took off through the little door leading to a wonderland.
see the Great Lakes?I do believe we'll be making a trip back up just to spend the day in the Children's garden. We actually stayed until they kicked us out (closing time!) They were nice about it, and even loaded the kids up with stickers and a map of the grounds. Meijer Gardens is free for Artprize right now, too, but you do need a ticket to visit certain areas not involving Artprize.
It was about time for us to head home, but we were having such a splendid family day that we just weren't ready to leave. We figured since the GRAM (Grand Rapids Art Museum) was free during Artrprize and also had extended hours until 10pm, we might as well get in all that art, too. We made the short drive back downtown and into quite a bit of traffic (but compared to Chicago, it's but a minor delay or inconvenience.) We actually found a parking garage close to the GRAM that wasn't full and waited a long time to turn in. Jeff let a car that had been sitting in on-coming traffic turn in front of us and we just hoped we'd still be able to find a spot. When it came time to pay, the attendant told us that car had paid our parking fee to say thanks!
We walked over to the GRAM and followed a short line to get in. This is where we were when I turned to see Gray in the arms of another woman, being held up to better see Kathy Goodell's untitled Artprize entry LOL. Oh dear. There were a few different pieces that the artist welcomed us to "move about" or touch, etc. Those were big hits with the kids, of course. Noah loved collecting all of the little artist cards by each entry- I could tell he was really taking it all in.
As we exited the GRAM there was a big concert out front at the Rosa Parks Circle. I didn't catch the name of the performer but Ivy happened to think he was playing just for her. We walked over and let her dance, and just soaked in the crowd and beauty of the moment together. It was really cool.
We were so tempted to try to stay one more night, but it was time to head for home. On the drive we speculated who we thought was going to win the grand prize (winner is announced tomorrow October 6!), hoping it will be Rusty, and each of the kids planned what they would create when they enter Artprize someday. And this makes me so very happy.
Our hotel stay, meals, entry to Meijer Gardens, as well as compensation for this post were paid for as part of my relationship with Experience Grand Rapids. We can't wait to go back. xoxo