WCAMI Artists debate the pros and cons of Artprize at Michigan Women’s Hall of Fame

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On October 26, 2014 at the Michigan Women’s Hall of Fame in Lansing MI, six WCAMI artistswho have previously shown their work at Artprize met with WCAMI general membership to discuss the pros and cons and ins and outs of participation in the event. The artist panelists quickly revealed that their reasons for entering the event–and their strategies for getting the most benefit from it–were as diverse as their work.

Artprize is characterized by two competitive tracks. There is a juried prize and a people’s choice prize, both now offering equivalent prize money. Depending on the goals of the individual artist, each calls for a different strategy in terms of the work produced, choice of venue and any campaigning via social media that the artist may choose to do. Engagement wiht the public is encouraged if the artist hopes to get the people’s choice award, while competitors for the juried prize are actively discouraged from engagement with the public via social media or in person. According to Darlene Kaczmarczyk, a professor at Kendall College of Art, a Grand Rapids native and 5 year veteran of the event, it is felt by the jurors that work for the juried prize should be judged independently from the social performance of the artist.

Abstract painter Jerrie Sasson laid out the general procedures for participation which requires payment of an entry fee. Then the artist sets up a page with a portfolio of work. Somewhat in the manner of an online dating service, the Grand Rapids businesses look for work that is a good fit for them and contact the artist through the website to arrange for installation. Sasson especially valued the opportunity to use social media to connect with the viewers. She enjoyed engaging with the public and said that she also felt it was her duty and privilege as an artist to reach out to educate and engage Artprize visitors.

Brenda Oelbaum also felt that engagement from the public with her work and the issues that surround it was critical to the success of her art project. A self-described “fat activist”, she said that setting up her installation in a book store gave her the ideal location in which to subvert the message of diet books and allowed her to observe the reaction of the public in real time.

Darlene Kaczmarczyk was most interested in the juried track of the competition in order to get the attention of arts professionals for her ironic ad-related pictures. She cautioned against depending solely on the website venues in favor of contacting possible sponsors directly before the process begins. For her most recent  Artprize project she had even gone so far as to take a picture of the venue and photo-shop her work in to give a convincing visual of the projected work, a strategy that was successful for her. She mentioned that some venues were more likely to get juror’s attention than others. (Also, not all of the locations are visited by the jurors; the art works are more or less “pre-curated” by local art professionals before the jurors arrive.)

Marilyn Bomarito also had approached the venues outside of the web site to find space; she was successful in finding a location for her mosaic sculpture and was very pleased to find that other artists were introduced to her work through Artprize. She concluded that Artprize increased her credibility as an artist to other artists and made her feel that more ambitious, larger work was in her reach.

Margaret Parker also felt that Artprize helped her to conceive larger and more ambitious work. She found a plaza location near a monumental Calder sculpture that called for a piece more architectural than sculptural in scale. With the enormous space in mind, she rented warehouse space and hired help and marshaled volunteers for help in fabricating and installing the large and colorful work that resembled a kind of multi-chambered gazebo, or as Parker laughingly put it “a giant bundt pan”.

All the panelists felt that Artprize was well worth the time, effort and expense. From a re-framing of one’s artistic ambition, to social engagement with the public or other artists, to garnering professional critical attention, each artist felt she had benefited substantially, though how that was defined varied with the individual.

For more information on Artprize, go to their very informative website: http://www.artprize.org

Published by K.A. Letts

K.A. Letts is a painter living and working in the metro Detroit area.

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