Terri Gordon: Annual ArtPrize grows in popularity

Published 7:55 am Friday, September 27, 2013

On September 18, ArtPrize opened in Grand Rapids for its fifth annual art competition. Touted as an “experiment,” the event was the brainchild of Rick Devos. For a period of 19 days, the three-square-mile downtown is all abuzz with artists and their creations. It is a time to commune, create, and party–and the public is invited to join in the fun.
Over 150 venues–indoors and out–display the artworks of over 1,500 artists, and over $500,000 is given in prize money. Some of that money is awarded by jury selection, but the great bulk is awarded through the votes of public viewers.
One piece already creating a stir is the “ransom note” of Berrien Center artist Greg Constantine. Constantine made the note from license plates he fabricates out of plastic.
“They’re convincing, realistic-looking, license plates,” said Constantine. “They’re molded out of plastic. The text is in relief. They’re vacuum-formed. I have the individual letters that I lay down, the plastic melts, or droops down, and the vacuum sucks the air out. They cool, and I paint them.”
Constantine has been playing with license plates a long time. In the 1980s, he produced a series call Artists Licenses, creating licenses befitting famous artists. Seurat’s license, for example, is done in the pointillism Seurat is known for. Constantine began working with the medium again when he started making Poetic Licenses-expressing, in license plates, famous quotes about art. He’s dabbled with movie quotes, and was working on a series he calls Car Quotes, when inspiration struck for his ArtPrize entry: Rick Devos, Or Else.
“I ended up with a ransom note that said, “Pay $360,000 or you’ll never see your Rolls Royce again. That inspired me to think of having a ransom note [for the ArtPrize money]–which is tongue-and-cheek, of course.”
And so, he set about creating license plates and cutting them up into the ransom note he entered. Rick Devos, Or Else hangs in the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum.
This is the third year Constantine has participated in ArtPrize. The first year he sent a painting from a series of Northern Lights paintings. It hung in the St. Cecelia Music Center. Last year, using license plates, he spelled out the Star-Spangled Banner across a map of the United States.
Major exhibition centers include the Grand Rapids Art Museum, the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum, and the Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park, but many smaller venues host displays. Restaurants and pubs are popular spots, and many installations are out-of-doors.
Maps are avail-able, as well as a free phone app. Visitors can take in as many, or as few, of the exhibits as they wish. Winners will be announced on Friday, October 4, and ArtPrize will close on Sun-day, the 6th, at 6 p.m. Further Info-rmation is available at ArtPrize.org.