ArtPrize 2015: Many Hands Created Inclusive Artwork to be Displayed at Blue Cross

Aileen Strickland is quick to point out that although she may be listed as an ArtPrize artist, she considers herself more of a project coordinator.

The piece that Strickland conceived and pulled together with the help of many, many people is titled “Together We Stand”. It will be on display in the window of BCBSM’s downtown Grand Rapids location at 86 Monroe Center throughout the duration of ArtPrize, which begins today.

The 3-D work features an outline of the Grand Rapids skyline on stretched canvas. It’s filled in with multi-colored thumbprints and hand prints collected from participants at this year’s Grand Rapids Pride Festival and by groups at the Network.

“The whole idea of “Together We Stand” is that the LGBT community is part of the community. They’re not separate,” Strickland said.

Strickland is a design researcher at Steelcase. She’s always thinking about how to get people to think differently or ask a question of themselves that they might not have asked, especially when it comes to social issues. Sometimes, looking at art is an easier way to start a conversation about contentious topics, Strickland explains.

“To me, art is a way to open it up a little bit more,” she said. “For social issues, I think it’s a really important way to start and ignite a conversation.”

The idea to start a wider discussion about LGBT inclusivity and acceptance in Grand Rapids came to Strickland when she served as the lead for the arts and crafts area at Pride. The piece was born in a planning meeting and started to take shape at Pride with people leaving their individual thumbprints.

Strickland said it was neat to see people engage and make the artwork their own. Kids brought their parents over, thumbprints became hearts, and everyone left their own unique mark.

DSCN2713[1]“Some did it multiple times with multiple colors,” she said.

As an LGBT ally, Strickland said great strides have been made toward equality, but that there’s still a ways to go. She said anyone who cares about equal rights for all needs to actively work to make that shift happen.

“I think there’s always a lot to do within the community to really see that we’re a part of them and they’re a part of us and there’s no difference,” she said. “We’re just Grand Rapids.”

Heading to ArtPrize? Make sure to check out Strickland and friends’ work in the window of the former Steketee’s building at 86 Monroe Center NW in downtown Grand Rapids.

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Photo credit: Julie Bitely

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