Open Art Contests Unite Cities' Business & Arts Communities

June 20, 2013 at 9:27 am CDT
The Twins by David Clemons, a sculpture in Twin Falls, Idaho Twin Falls, Idaho, hosts an open annual arts contest, "Art & Soul of Magic Valley." The above sculpture - not a contest entry - is "The Twins" by David Clemons, an installation along the Snake River Canyon Rim.

Cities looking for ways to unite their business and arts communities should consider Grand Rapids, Mich. and Twin Falls, Idaho, where residents, businesses, artists and arts patrons strongly support a new, more open type of arts contest.

In fact, the Grand Rapids 2010 inaugural ArtPrize event inspired the Twin Falls area's version in 2011, called Art & Soul of Magic Valley. While ArtPrize remains the much larger of the two, the basic concept and relative benefits to each community are the same.

A sense of openness sets these art competitions apart from more traditional ones, something that seems to bring together a more diverse group of people, too. Here's how:

  • Large cash prizes: ArtPrize definitely lives up to its name, offering  "the world's largest art prize" ($560,000 in prizes last year – including the $200,000 public-voted top award). Art & Soul of the Magic Valley is much smaller, yet still offers the top cash art prizes in the state ($30,000 total prizes, $10,00o for the top award). Corporate sponsors, charitable foundations, individual donations and entry fees fund these prizes, drawing support from throughout the community. In other words, a lot of people have a say in making it worth artists' and businesses' time to participate, which also builds momentum, public interest and participation.
  • Open call for entries: Any artist age 18 years or older may enter, and entrants do not have to be residents. So, the town's "local favorite" has just as good a chance to win the big prize as a visiting artist, and residents benefit by seeing works by and creative perspectives from people they may never have been exposed to before.
  • Businesses can double as galleries: This type of show opens the "event gallery" concept to include local businesses as venues. In Grand Rapids, registered artists and venues within the ArtPrize district must connect independently; in Twin Falls, the event planning organization can help make those matches as needed. In both cases, businesses displaying contest entries gives people another reason to visit a particular business district and step through a local shop's doors.



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