With Art Prize, I Was the Winner All Along (AKA We take a Trip to Grand Rapids)(part one, sorry)

Hello, it is me and I am back with another road trip. 

This time I’m gonna approach the blog a little differently, because the last one I felt was just a lot of listing things I did and honestly, I think you deserve better than that. And also, I think I’m better than that. Cause you do and I am. 

So, Mickey was on me about taking pics (and he took some of his own) and handed me every receipt that he remembered to, so I’m gonna upload random pics and pull out random receipts and just say a couple lines about each of them. 

I will reserve some space to tell you why we went to Grand Rapids and what Art Prize even is. 

So, Art Prize.

The other day I was sitting across from Mickey on dueling couches, TikToking and chuckling separately when one of my first TikTok follows came across my FYP. 

They are an artist who does installations with a single piece of string, normally under bridges or other industrial looking areas. And also normally overseas. I’d seen them working in Spain a lot over the last couple years. 

I was obsessed with their work and the new piece that they shared on TikTok was no different. 

Then I read the caption: “For ArtPrize in Grand Rapids, Michigan.”

I yelped!

Then I scrolled a bit more and saw they had a couple pieces in whatever Art Prize was. I figured it was some fancy artist thing that was inaccessible to a normie like me. 

But it’s not. Basically it’s a month-long thing that takes over Downtown Grand Rapids. Each business that elects to participate gets one (or more) pieces of art to display in their business during Art Prize. 

The art comes from artists from all over the world. People wander around the downtown area bopping in and out of businesses, looking at their Art Prize pieces and discovering new-to-them things! And they can vote on winners. 

Ok, well that sounded amazing. So I told Mickey about it. It was only going on for one or two more weeks so he said, “Let’s go on my weekend” and so we did. 

Here’s the tale (it might be two parts also) I will share my shots of the Swilk piece at the conclusion, because it was the first thing we did at Art Prize and still my favorite. 

Ok, first off, I was gonna, like, organize these into groupings and crap, but then that takes away from the spontaneity of this post, so from here on out, I’m just uploading ’em randomly and reacting. Okay? Ok. 

So, since Grand Rapids was about 3 hours away and Art Prize looked pretty expansive, we decided to make it an overnight trip. This is the view from our 4th floor room and my lavender latte (and mickey’s chocolate coffee martini that had a fancier name that I have since forgotten) from the lil eatery offa the lobby of the hotel we were staying in. 

Random Photo #1:

Okay, so at one of the stores we stopped at (by stopped, I mean peeked our heads into, asked, “Where’s your Art Prize piece?” then they showed us and then we shopped. I got clothes even! wtf.) there was a super helpful fella behind the counter. First off, he was super knowledgeable about the pieces in his store and the artists that created them. More than that, he gave us a quick lowdown on the event itself. Telling us, “You are on a great street for this, but when you start getting bored of all the stuff here and you feel you’re getting too tired to continue, book it to the hotel district and go into all the lobbies. That’s where the big, beautiful pieces are.”

I’m so glad he said this, otherwise we would have missed out on some really great art. 

Included what’s pictured above. This is late in our night 1 Art Prize adventure, we’re on our way to our final destination in the drizzly rain and we’ve come across a hotel – with a lobby! And an Art Prize sandwich board outside with a handwritten note atop it that read “See King Tut”. Well, I needed to see King Tut, so I pulled on the hotel door. 

It was too late and the lobby was locked to non-guests and I was sad. I tried to peep in there and see the King Tut but I could not, so we just moved on. 

But then! A quartet of me and my friends from 30 years in the future approached the door, giggling, stylish AF and red cheeked from the windy rain. Normally, I’m shy AF and don’t talk to strangers, but I turned around and said something like, “Will you let me in to see the art? I just want to see King Tut.”

And they did! Not only did we see King Tut (pic of that to come), we saw this fun as hell display:

Here is a detail shot of the airplane. 

And the artists name! Art Prize was fantastic at making sure each artist’s name was prominently displayed, as well as some info about the piece and prices or info on how to purchase it. Really artist positive event in a way that didn’t feel corporate or money grabby at all. 

Now there were a couple pieces downstairs and that was fun and all, but we were there to see King Tut, as promised. But there was no King Tut to be seen. 

But there was this! It was made 100% from Legos!

Then I looked up and there this was:

It was an absolutely massive and elaborate display. King Tut was a recreation of course, but it was still a sight to see. 

Here is a detail shot Mickey took of one of the sneks protecting it. 

I didn’t even notice this. And that is why it is important to have a second photographer, I guess. 

Okay, let’s do random photograph number 2 now:

This is one of the few pics I snapped of 2D art, but there was something about it that’s just so cartoon-y, but surreal, but also real, but also not that I really dig. It speaks to me. 

Oh and also, you can see my brand new/old winter-y coat thingie. This was one of the small shopping victories we had on this trip. It was a little colder than we expected, so Mickey’s plan was to go to shop when we arrived to buy jackets. 

Immediately, I had flashbacks to a trip I took to New Orleans (my favorite city in the country) with my ex one time. He was unprepared for the city in December and did not bring a coat, so our first goal on that trip was also to find him a coat.

We ended up going to so many dumb stores that we could have shopped at back home. It was so frustrating and took almost an entire day out of our short trip to a vibrant city. 

So needless to say, this plan set of my brain’s protection panic alarms. But I reminded myself that I am not in the same situation, nor am I the same person, so this, of course will not turn out the same way. 

And it did not. The first place Mickey picked for us to go look for jackets was a secondhand store where he found a beautifully broken in leather jacket for $50 and I found a hideously gorgeous white cardigan with hearts sewn all over it AND a long zippered warm sweater with a faux fur collar that I put on immediately. 

We were both sufficiently cozy! That’s not our only victory though. 

Here, look at my coat in this pic that also has the name of the artist that did the above art:

 

Ok, so how Art Prize works is there are sandwich boards outside each business that has a piece inside so that folks know to go inside to check it out. We went into every single one of those that we saw. 

One was another secondhand store that we got another stuffy at. I know, I know, but it was the Noid – with the tags still on! He loves pizza, obv and is a member of the Tag Gang for now. 

I also found a cut off Peanuts sweatshirt that said “Michigan’s Adventure” underneath the art and so I also had to have that.

And then on a rack of coats I spotted this. In pristine condition. It’s a Woolrich’s Lumberjack coat and it is the warmest thing I’ve ever worn and I’m so glad to have found it. 

I’ve been really worried about finding a winter coat that fit both my body and my aesthetic and my comfort. I guess that is three things now that I think about it. This hit all three, so we got it. 

I’m slowly putting my winter wardrobe together. 

Okay one more random pic and then I’m gonna wrap this up. D is starting “Brockmire” for the first time tomorrow and I think I have to watch it again so my love for the show is fresh in my soul again. It has the best character growth of any show I’ve seen, I think. Ugh, it’s so good. It’s on Hulu, if you’d also like to watch it. 

Random Pic #3:

Real talk. I honestly do not remember taking this photo. It’s obviously from our walk back to the hotel. There was a lot of art to see, so I took a lot of pics. 

Well, a lot for me, but barely any for a normal person, I’m sure. 

It was raining at night, but I kind of loved it in a weird way. It was a glorious, glittering walk back to our hotel and Ioved that there was so much art to see everywhere. 

Full disclosure, there was one failure of the Art Prize adventure and that was a nighttime exhibit I wanted to see. We walked to the address listed on the event, but there was nothing there. Maybe it was rained out or something, but we didn’t get to see it. And we had already done a lot of walking by that point so it was a slight letdown. 

But then we ended up at a place called “Speak EZ” (thanks I hate it) and they had some Art Prize art and some incredible local ginger beer that was one of the tastiest brews I’d had in a hot minute. 

I was also very taken with this piece on the walk back to the hotel. And now, seeing this side by side with the random picture above, I think they might go together. 

This was an imposing piece in the day time, but at night it was just breathtaking. I don’t think you can make it out here, but the sculpture is made up of words… in all sorts of different languages. 

Sometimes when I talk about art I feel so dumb. I don’t have the big education and references others do, so I feel like I’m just babbling, “I like this.” (who cares), “This makes me feel this.” (also who cares), “Oh, this reminds me of this other thing.” (I said I do not care). 

But I really love art. I love looking at it and thinking about the process and how the artist decided to create their brain thoughts in that way instead of another way. And I wonder if the process or the idea came first. Or do they even know what it’s gonna look like when they’re done? Or is it a mystery to them like it is to me. 

I’ve always loved art and was in art club in middle school until we moved to Social Circle. My claim to fame in the art world was winning second place in an Arby’s Holiday window decorating competition in 7th grade. But then I got discouraged somehow or someway and I’m not really sure what happened. 

But I’m letting it get rekindled again and doing things like Art Prize are endlessly inspiring. I’m so lucky to get to do it. 

I mean, hell, my stuffed wolf Tracy Morban has sold a piece of art. Surely I can do more than second place in a fast food window decorating contest in the 80s. 

Right?

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