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Arts & Life

Artists scramble to put the finishing touches on their pieces for ArtPrize

Art is popping up like mushrooms in downtown Grand Rapids. That’s because ArtPrize kicks off this week.

The big winner of the art competition is decided by the hundreds of thousands of people who visit the event and vote. But there are juried awards too. In all more than $500,000 in prize money is up for grabs.

Norman Wilder has been painting an 18-foot long, 10-foot high mural on the outside wall of a risk management company since last Wednesday.

“I just said, risk management – what’s more risky than an elephant on a tightrope?”

Wilder says he wanted the colorful, circus themed mural to be fun and family friendly. Last year about 400,000 people came to see all the art. This is Wilder third time entering.

“Whether you win or not it’s great exposure. You meet all kinds of nice people,” Wilder said.

Kim Toogood watches her crew assemble about 200 steel beams in the shape of a geodesic dome. It’s like a half-sphere you’d see at a kid’s playground but bigger; 25 feet in diameter and 15 feet high.

“You’re just seeing the bones of it right now,” Toogood explained, “It’s going to be kind of cool with some pretty Plexiglas that goes up. I’ve got crystals and lights and canvas panels; going to jazz it up, give you a little bit of an experience when you actually get inside.”

This is her second time entering ArtPrize.

“I was here a few years ago with a little tiny piece, a collage piece and I said ‘you know the next time I do Artprize I’m going to something really big,” Toogood said.

Big pieces in prominent locations downtown have done well among the popular vote in the past.

Toogood’s dome has a prominent spot in an amphitheater next to the Grand River. She'd like to win a juried prize for best use of urban space. That’s worth $20,000. The top prize, worth $200,000, is decided by the voting public who visit the event.

Toogood and Wilder’s works are just two in a sea of over 1,500 scattered in Grand Rapids. The event opens Wednesday and runs through October 6th.

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