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Mark Dahle's tips for visiting ArtPrize Grand Rapids Sept 21 - Oct 9, 2016

ArtPrize is an interesting social experiment that galvanizes a community around art. It is a lot like visiting an art show at a state fair. It's worth a trip, but you're not expecting to find paintings you will see in a museum next month (except for Ripley's Museums, which by regularly from ArtPrize).

If you are interested in going, this article will help you plan your trip no matter whether you have half a day or a week.

The Sky Is Not Falling, ArtPrize 2011

On this page:
Tips for Visiting
ArtPrize Hotels
ArtPrize Transportation
ArtPrize Future Dates

ArtPrize Grand Rapids is an art competition created by Rick DeVos. In 2013, Time Magazine listed it as one of five festive events not to miss.

Prizes totalling more than $500,000 are awarded at each event, making it the largest total prize purse for art in the world.

ArtPrize 2011

When you visit, you'll find that great art is hidden throughout the city, and it takes time to find it. Unless you've got four or five days and really like walking, here's some general guidelines:

If you only have one day: If you only have a day and like contemporary art best, try the Urban Institute for Contemporary Arts, the Kendall College of Art and Design, Western Michigan University - Grand Rapids (open limited hours), and SITE:LAB. If you have extra time, ask people at these venues what else you should see. If you want art tied to social justice themes you might also try the Fountain Street Church.

If you only have a day and you like paintings or drawings best, start at the De Vos Convention Center. Take the Skywalk to the Amway Hotel display, then head to Grand Rapids Brewing and to the Grand Rapids Art Museum. End up at the BOB for for fun. If you still have time go to UICA, Kendall, WMU, or Fifth Third Bank.

If they have been announced, check the list of juror's picks and public vote favorites to see if there's anything else you have to look at. You're going to miss lots, but you'll have fun and you'll probably see or experience something to make your trip worth it.

ArtPrize 2011

If you only have one day and you like sculpture best, start at the Frederik Meijer Gardens and Sculpture Park. If this will be your only trip to Grand Rapids, plan on spending at least half a day looking at their year-round collection (which requires an admission fee) as well as the ArtPrize entries (which are free to view).

Permanent Sculpture, Meier Sulpture Park

Outdoor sculpture at Meijer Gardens

Next try the sculptures along the riverbank, in the plaza outside the B.O.B. and at the Gerald Ford Museum. There will also be some sculptures at the venues mentioned for contemporary art, above.


If you only have three days: Pick up a map and focus on the Exhibition Centers first. Forget the outlying venues, unless you hear reports about something great at one of them. You'll miss good stuff, but you don't have enough time. Concentrate on the central core of downtown, the venues with the most artists, and the seven or eight exhibition centers. Focus your time on spots with the densest collections of art.

ArtPrize 2011If you have five days: If you walk fast, are methodical, start at noon, and keep at it until 9 p.m., you might be able to see every venue. It helps to have a car to reach the outlying venues, but you don't need a car if you're satisfied seeing only 80% of the venues.

If this is your one trip to Grand Rapids, spend some time enjoying the permanent displays around town and the bridges over Grand River.

At the top of your list should be The Frederik Meijer Gardens and Sculpture Park even if you're not that wild about sculpture.

Outdoor sculpture, Frederik Meijer Gardens

Outdoor sculpture at Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park.

The Grand Rapids Museum has an excellent permanent display on furniture manufacturing.

Grand Rapids Museum

The Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum is worth a visit as well.

When to visit: You'll be able to have fun no matter when you visit, but if you're in town for the last five days of the event, you can plan your travels around the public and jurors' top picks.

Whenever you go, check for ticketed events you might be interested in seeing.

Media coverage, ArtPrize 2011

After you visit: Thanks to the great reporting at you can stay on top of all the ArtPrize news long after you've left Michigan. Tell Google to notify you about new stories on ArtPrize at

ArtPrize Hotels

View Larger Map

You can get a good picture of your ArtPrize hotel options at Type in "hotels near Grand Rapids, MI." You'll see a small cluster of hotels at the intersection of 131 (the yellow line running north and south) and 196 (the Gerald R. Ford Freeway). That's the downtown area.

Downtown. If you stay in a downtown hotel, you'll be at the center of all the action. Your options are the Amway Grand Plaza, the JW Marriott Grand Rapids, the Courtyard Grand Rapids Downtown, the Holiday Inn Grand Rapids Downtown, and the City Flats Hotel. These hotels are the best locations for ArtPrize.

Other options. If you want something less expensive, there are lots of hotels clustered on 28 St. SE (Highway 11) closer to the airport. If you have a car, your commute time to town will be about 20 minutes. There are parking lots all over downtown. Rates vary, but expect to pay about $12 a day. On a bus or taxi, your commute time will be about an hour (see below).

ArtPrize 2011


If you're at a hotel on 28th Street, estimate about $20 one way for a taxi, with a 20 to 40 minute wait to get a cab to your hotel, and another 20 or 30 minutes for the ride to town.

The bus is about as fast as a taxi. There is excellent bus service from Woodland Shopping Center on 28th Street (you can take either route 5 or 6 to town). But check the distance from your hotel: it's a two- or three-mile walk from some of the 28th Street hotels to Woodland Shopping Center.

There are a few hotels along 28th St SE at Division Ave S. The route 1 (Division) bus serves these hotels.

Passes to ride the bus are available at ArtPrize gift shops for $5. Bus schedules are available at http://www.

Duct tape painting, ArtPrize 2011

ArtPrize is an interesting event, but it is NOT like visiting a major show like Art Basel Miami Beach or New York's Armory Week. Be sure to read Quirks of ArtPrize to see if ArtPrize is the right event for you.

Highlights of ArtPrize 2010

Highlights of ArtPrize 2011

Highlights of ArtPrize 2014

Next topic: ArtPrize Dallas

Pages on other art events that you might be interested in:

Art Basel in Switzerland
Art Basel Miami Beach

New York Art Galleries
Venice Biennale

Understanding Abstract Art

Random Topics
Mark Dahle Biography and FAQs

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Steam plant, Grand Rapids, MI
Steam plant, Grand Rapids, MI. © 2010 Mark Dahle

The River House, Grand Rapids, MI. Photo copyright 2010 Mark Dahle.
The River House, Grand Rapids, MI. © 2010 Mark Dahle

Steam plant, Grand Rapids, MI. Photo copyright Mark Dahle 2010.

Steam plant, Grand Rapids, MI. © 2010 Mark Dahle

Construction, Grand Rapids, MI. Photo copyright Mark Dahle 2010.

Construction, Grand Rapids, MI. Photo © 2010 Mark Dahle.

Harris building, Grand Rapids

Grand Rapids, MI. Photo © 2010 Mark Dahle.

Downtown Grand Rapids

Grand Rapids, MI. Photo © 2010 Mark Dahle.

Downtown Grand Rapids

Grand Rapids, MI. Photo © 2010 Mark Dahle.

Downtown Grand Rapids

Grand Rapids, MI. Photo © 2010 Mark Dahle.

Downtown Grand Rapids

Grand Rapids, MI. Photo © 2010 Mark Dahle.

Downtown Grand Rapids

Grand Rapids, MI. Photo © 2010 Mark Dahle.