Innovation in the Arts
“Who’d have thought you had to come to Grand Rapids to become a famous artist in New York?” Glenn Rogers, on location at ArtPrize last week.
Local entrepreneur and tennis legend Glenn Rogers and I were in Grand Rapids, Mich., last week for business and happened on one of the world’s largest art contests with the richest purse. Who would have thought you had to travel to the heartland to find it? It sparked some thoughts on expanding Laguna’s art horizons.
ArtPrize is the brainchild of Rick DeVos, an Internet entrepreneur and the oldest grandson of Amway co-founder Rich DeVos. Rick and his parents, Dick and Betsy DeVos, put up nearly $500,000 prize money with a $250,000 first prize, which attracts more than 1,500 artists each year from over 40 states and almost as many countries. Over 450,000 votes were cast last year from hundreds of thousands of visitors over 19 days of the competition in downtown Grand Rapids.
The goal of ArtPrize is to spark “conversation” with art around the city outside the jury and participating artists.
ArtPrize is unusual in that the bulk of the prizes are awarded based on public voting. It has been compared to “American Idol” in how it chooses winners.
Todd HerringArtPrize marketing director explained the contest as more of a platform to enable the public and artists to meet. “We don’t choose the art and we don’t tell artists where they can display it,” he said. “We are like a big eHarmonywe facilitate artists and venues and then help the public engage the art and vote on it.”
So as Glenn and I through exhibits with Todd, it amazed us how effective art could be in attracting the public while radically expanding the opportunities for artists and venues. Art is displayed in all manner of public buildings, restaurants and hotels.
At Jean Paul’s Goodies in North Laguna, the caffeinated cognoscenti discussed whether something like ArtPrize could work in Laguna and how it might benefit or hurt our town.
Some people brought up concerns about its potential to detract from established arts venues, such as the Sawdust Festival and Laguna Beach Plein Air Invitational, both of limited duration and arguably limited appeal.
My wife Sarah has been working on developing poetry for a broader audience. Too much literature, poetry, painting and other fine art are dedicated to a narrow range of professional criticism in the pursuit of acclaim.
This process alienates excellent artists from the general public; they are too often unknown by the masses and their fine-art work inaccessible to the uninitiated.
ArtPrize provides inspiration as a place where a 27-year-old’s vision transformed the art landscape in an unlikely place. We need fresh vision for the arts in Laguna to attract the next generation.
I lived in Spring Green, Wisc., in 1992, the home of Frank Lloyd Wright’s Hillside School and Taliesin East. The school evolved into a museum to the once-innovative architect and his followers. It was innovative.
I have heard people say that Laguna Beach used to be an art colony. I don’t think that’s true. Despite a fair amount of derivative art and the worship of early artists, new ideas do emerge here. Surf art on clothing is certainly one expression of art for the masses with roots here.
We don’t want to ride the trend in a down economy. We need to innovate. Laguna is a destination with the artistic roots to become an arts powerhouse again. Sometimes great ideas come from surprising places.
David Vanderveen is a Laguna Beach resident, husband, father and energy drink entrepreneur. His email is [email protected].