It is totally redemptive of ArtPrize that two juried shortlist mentions out of twenty-five are housed at Craft House, Division Street, Avenue of the Arts. GRAM has three. Kendall has two. SiTE:LAB has four. DeVos has two, one a Rick Beerhorst. A garage in Hillside has one. Nothing for UICA? Craft House's victory moves me. Paul Amenta and SiTE:LAB has pretty much gone to roost at the old Public Museum, off the Zeitgeist and heading toward decadence.
Sorry Paul but your better days happened on Division Street. If a gardener has a lush ball of lavender, a wise gardener splits it up and transplant. This was the year to send forth lieutenants to create venues, as written about here last year perhaps to the master artist's notice. How else does one know that the SiTE:LAB concept is viable beyond the honourable creator's direction. Be more Beerhorst, who always takes it to the streets and the farmer's market, usually in a wonder wagon pulled by his wife, children and himself. Be more J.D. Urban, who made do with a tent on Calder Plaza and her interviewing skills. Be more Craft House or even Mr. Fix-It.
The highest art always occurs on the skinniest branch, where it has barely enough support to endure. That exposure makes me blink, startled, thinking, "How can this be"? This makes Burning Man on the Playa or Wheatland Music Festival up on the upper reaches of the Muskegon River fairly authentic expressions of the creative impulse. It's all packed out without a trace and then sands and grass take over for another year.
As much as I love GRAM, KCAD and FMG all year round, during ArtPrize the institutions become bunkers, hothouses and prize factories. The strain at UICA made the place far more fertile ground for art that is absolute of funded budgets and art professionals with good offices. Sorry, all three of the big houses have to take it to the street next year, sending curators to risk reputation on entry-level venues to retain the spirit of authenticity.
Need help. Hire Fred Bivins, who can make the Grand Rapids Press building the Louvre and the Woman's City Club the Scarab Club of Detroit. Hire Jef Bourgeau who has transformed more raw space into art space than San Francisco's Red Ink Studios and has placed the international Museum of New Art in, of all places, on 33 Mile Road in Armada, Michigan. Hire Jen Schaub and her team who can bring more than 300 artists to Division Street at least twice a year.
It's time to design ArtPrize 2014 to dare curators to take their vision out of Grand Rapid's big institutions and out into the raw space venues and onto the street level.