ArtPrize 2015: GR Residents Open Homes to Artists

What do previous ArtPrize winners Beili Liu, Mia Tavonatti, Adonna Khare, Young Kim, and Anila Quayyum all have in common, besides winning?

During their respective stays in Grand Rapids, they were all given shelter by local families in their homes.

ArtPrize returns to Grand Rapids Sept. 23 – Oct. 11 and hosting an artist is a unique way to volunteer. Many former hosts say opening up their homes to perfect strangers has helped forge lifelong friendships and opened up a side of ArtPrize they might not have otherwise experienced.

Eva and Leana Tank with artist Yoyoe.
Eva and Leana Tank with artist Yoyoe. (Courtesy photo)

Leana and Eric Tank and their daughter Eva hosted for the first time last year. Australian artist Yoyoe (aka Josephine Bradley Scott) stayed in their partially-finished basement in the East Hills neighborhood for about a week. The family and artist had an instant bond.

“She was great. She was really open and sweet. We had a lot of fun taking her to different places around downtown,” Leana Tank said.

The family said Yoyoe was amazed by Lake Michigan and the fall foliage during her visit. They in turn were able to witness ArtPrize from an artist’s perspective. Leana Tank said it also opened her eyes to how some artists use ArtPrize as a platform to address specific issues. Yoyoe partnered with the Michigan Eating Disorders Alliance for “I Am Human” which was designed to bring awareness to the topic of body image. Part of Yoyoe’s time in Grand Rapids was spent teaching and yoga and body image workshops.

The family is engaged with the Grand Rapids art community and was excited to support ArtPrize in a very personal way. Leana Tank said she’s been impressed by the conversation and dialogue ArtPrize has sparked in Grand Rapids and surrounding communities.

“It’s definitely developed an awareness and appreciation for the arts in Grand Rapids,” she said.

2009 ArtPrize artist Beth Shadur enjoying Margaret Sudekum's dogs.
2009 ArtPrize artist Beth Shadur enjoying Margaret Sudekum’s dogs. (Courtesy photo)

Margaret Sudekum is a retired veterinarian who lives in Ada, a short drive from downtown Grand Rapids. Starting from a young age, Sudekum has relied on the kindness of family friends and acquaintances for lodging when she’s traveled. She couldn’t think of a better way to get involved in ArtPrize than by returning the favor to out-of-town artists.

“I find meeting people to be interesting and this was a way to meet new people,” she said.

Sudekum has hosted artists every year since ArtPrize began.

“I liked the fact that as the years went by, there were people coming to ArtPrize who had no thought that they’d win, but they were just happy to participate,” she said.

For Tom and Karen Weaver, volunteering at ArtPrize was something they’ve done for many years. After Karen Weaver retired from her teaching career last year, they decided the next logical way to give back was to host an artist.

Tom Weaver and Jack Howard-Potter ready for a training ride. (Courtesy photo)
Tom Weaver and Jack Howard-Potter ready for a training ride. (Courtesy photo)

Jack Howard-Potter stayed with the couple for the time he was in Grand Rapids. The Manhattan artist was here to promote his Figures in Motion piece.

Karen Weaver said she and her husband felt like they knew Howard-Potter since their children are both artists. She said they learned a lot about what goes into ArtPrize from an artist’s perspective and were pleased to show Howard-Potter just how welcoming Grand Rapids could be.

“We learned a lot from Jack,” Karen Weaver said. “We learned through his eyes when he came from Manhattan that he was stunned by the friendliness and the trust.”

Howard-Potter returned that friendliness by fixing Tom Weaver’s wheelchair wheel. An avid cyclist, Howard-Potter and Tom Weaver even went on a few training rides together, as Tom Weaver was gearing up for the Grand Rapids Marathon hand cycle race.

Karen Weaver was at the dedication of the La Grande Vitesse sculpture in Grand Rapids in 1967. The iconic public art sculpture by Alexander Calder serves as the backdrop for many city festivals and serves as a sort of logo for the city. She said that piece of art signifies the rebirth of Grand Rapids and to her, ArtPrize has been similarly rejuvenating for downtown.

“It’s a lovely vehicle that’s bringing people and artists to our city,” Karen Weaver said.

The Weaver family is looking forward to hosting again this year.

“I can’t imagine not hosting,” Karen Weaver said. “It’s another way you can experience ArtPrize.

If you live in the greater Grand Rapids area, applications to host artists this year are due Sept. 3. Have you ever hosted an artist for ArtPrize? Share your experience with us in the comments.

 

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Photo credit: Didriks (main), courtesy photos

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