ArtPrize 2014: And the Winner Is …

Anila Quayyum Agha’s installation piece “Intersections” was this year's big winner.
Anila Quayyum Agha’s installation piece “Intersections” was this year’s big winner.

Art critics and the public agreed on this year’s big winner at ArtPrize 2014.

Anila Quayyum Agha’s shadow-and-light installation piece “Intersections” was awarded the Public Grand Prize and tied to share the Juried Grand Prize, netting her a total of $300,000 in prize money. Sonya Clark took home $100,000 as the other winner of the Juried Grand Prize, for her work, “The Hair Craft Project.” See the full list of prize winners here.

Agha said she was inspired after a visit to the Alhambra Palace in Granada, Spain, a place where Islamic and Western discourses “met and co-existed in harmony and served as a testament to the symbiosis of difference.”

“The symbolism is about inclusivity and crossing over to somebody else’s side if you don’t understand what they’re saying,” she said.

Agha isn’t the only big winner at ArtPrize. The city itself reaps economic and cultural benefits, organizers say.

Now that ArtPrize is officially a cultural institution in Grand Rapids, founder Rick DeVos said he’s happy to take his place in the event’s background and let a “fantastic team” take the reins.

“There’s a lot that goes into it,” he said.

ArtPrize not only gives people a chance to discover great art, but it gives them an opportunity to rediscover their city, said ArtPrize Executive Director Christian Gaines. The at-your-own-pace nature of ArtPrize gives tourists and residents alike the chance to look up, down and all around.

“It’s all baked into the city itself,” he said.

ArtPrize revelers enjoyed a free concert at Rosa Parks Circle after the winners were announced.
ArtPrize revelers enjoyed a free concert at Rosa Parks Circle after the winners were announced.

As for the winners of the public and juried awards, Kevin Buist, ArtPrize Director of Exhibitions said it was interesting this year to hear art critics disagree over juried finalists. He said it just goes to show that there’s not one “right answer” when it comes to art.

It is clear, however, that ArtPrize is good for the city of Grand Rapids and its many downtown businesses.

“Events like ArtPrize put us on the map,” said Kelly McGrail, marketing content manager at Experience Grand Rapids.

Things have changed a lot in the six years since ArtPrize began. The first year, restaurants were closing their doors because they were running out of food. This year, no such shortages were reported and McGrail said the event feeds into a one billion dollar tourism industry in Kent County. Tourism accounts for one of every six jobs in the county, McGrail said.

Over 400,000 visitors attended ArtPrize in 2013, with organizers pointing to 253 new jobs created and $22.1 million in net-new economic activity. This year’s event focused on inclusivity through a variety of measures, including a free bus ridership wristband program, sponsored by Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan and the Grand Rapids Community Foundation.

What did you like most about this year’s ArtPrize? Share your favorite moments in the comments below.

Photo credit: Julie Bitely

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