An overcast sky over a large, unfinished mural in Grand Rapids, Michigan

Vote—For Art

With more than 1,700 artists vying for almost $500,000 in prize money, ArtPrize, a three-week free festival in Grand Rapids, Michigan, claims to be the “world’s largest prize for art.” Now in its second year, the showcase for all manner of visual media turns a three-square-mile area of the city’s downtown—including sidewalks, building exteriors, fences, bridges, and parks—into a gigantic gallery through October 10th. But its epic size isn’t the only thing that makes ArtPrize worth visiting: Instead of relying on curators or judging panels to award money, ArtPrize opens the voting to everybody who attends. During last year’s inaugural event, almost 335,000 visitors voted for their favorites. This year, the top ten will be announced on September 30th, the winners on Thursday, October 7th. ArtPrize also features some major audio attractions: Natasha Bedingfield (Unwritten, Pocketful of Sunshine) and David Archuleta (American Idol) perform on October 2nd.

GO ArtPrize in downtown Grand Rapids, Michigan, September 22nd through October 10th. Free; for $15, you get a map, guidebook, and a wristband that allows unlimited travel on the Rapid from outside Grand Rapids to downtown, plus access to the public shuttle between exhibit venues. For more information, visit or e-mail

Other Things To Do During ArtPrize

Friday, October 1st

  • Bring a handwritten letter (remember handwritten letters?) to the “Ironing Board Project” and help create a performance piece by transferring the words to linen with archival pens. The letters on linen will be read, acted out, and pieced into poetry in performances at 3 and 5 p.m. Grand Rapids Civic Center, 30 Division Ave. N.
  • After the public picks the award winners, experts will weigh in during the panel discussion “Critical Discourse: Battle of the Top Ten.” Arrive early, stay late: Receptions with cocktails, music, and appetizers bookend the discussion. 7 to 11 p.m. at the Goei Center, 818 Butterworth St. SW; 616-454-7000,

Saturday, October 2nd

  • What would happen if hundreds of people mailed out missives of hope to random strangers? Hope is in the Cards aims to find out by inviting people to take a moment and a stamp to spread a good word. 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. at The Bob, 20 Monroe Ave. NW.
  • Drop by the reception for artist Gus Garcia, and he’ll sketch a free portrait of you. 2 to 4 p.m. at the Hope Lodge, 129 Jefferson Ave. SE.

Sunday, October 3rd

  • Former Special Ops Marine Earle Swope explains the mechanics and the inspiration behind his 3-D multimedia installation “Fugaciously,” created after his near-death experience while trapped beneath the ice on a frozen pond. 10 a.m. at the Free Spirit Worship Center, 802 Monroe Ave. NW, Suite 120 (Mason Street entrance);
  • At “Brunch and Banter,” meet with artists for brunch (including Bloody Marys) and conversation about how contemporary political, social, and environmental concerns inform the work of artists. $5 members; $7 non-members. 1 to 3 p.m. at the Urban Institute for Contemporary Arts, 41 Sheldon Blvd. SE; 616-454-7000,


Rates for rooms at Amway Grand Plaza range from $144 for a standard room to $304 for the Concierge Tower Suite, which includes one-and-a-half baths, views of both the river and the city, and access to the 25th floor lounge with complimentary cocktails and breakfast. 187 Monroe Ave. NW, 800-253-3590;

The JW Marriott Grand Rapids offers a standard room with city view for $199 a standard room with a view of the Grand River for $209; a suite with a city view for $399. 235 Louis St. NW; 616-242-1500,

During ArtPrize, weekend rates at Lasting Impressions Bed & Breakfast range from $65 to $85 (usually $70 to $90). 433 Madison Ave. SE; 800-504-7461,