Upper Peninsula artists set to take the world stage at Art Prize

September 19, 2016  |  by Bonifas Arts Center


Each year more and more art seekers come to Michigan’s Upper Peninsula to comb its galleries, studios and arts and culture centers for paintings, sculpture, multimedia pieces, fiber art, photography and more.

“They are surprised by our work,” said Scott Leipski a ceramics artist from Gladstone. “Our region emboldens artists. You see artistic innovations you won’t come across in larger urban areas.”

But this boldness and innovation is about to be seen by hundreds of thousands of people on the world’s art stage when 51 U.P. artists compete in ArtPrize. This radically open international art competition decided by the public and an expert jury will be held in Grand Rapids, Mich., Sept. 21-Oct. 9. Entirely free and open to the public, ArtPrize is listed among The New York Times “52 Places to Go in 2016.” It attracts nearly 1,500 art pieces from around the planet and displays them in more than 160 venues over three square miles of downtown.

The stakes are high. Prizes total $500,000, with the top vote getters in the public and jury selection each taking home $200,000. The arts community in the U.P. hopes that one or more of their representatives will take those honors. But that requires getting thousands of votes for each entry.

A key factor in garnering those votes is each art piece’s location. This year, Eddie T.L. Tadlock, lead artistic curator for DeVos Place (one of the most highly trafficked venues) is doing something no one has ever done in ArtPrize’s eight-year history. He has reserved 500 linear feet of display space along the skywalk to showcase artwork from one region in the U.S. His choice: Michigan’s U.P. The area is named the U.P. Pavilion at DeVos Place and Tadlock has selected 28 U.P. artists to present a diversity of art mediums there. Leipski’s ceramic sculptures, “Ten Thoughts on Tuesday” are among them.

“We are part of a daring venture,” said Tadlock. “The artwork in the U.P. Pavilion at DeVos Place will serve as a catalyst, a vital space to convene, think, witness, ponder and inspire at ArtPrize 2016.”
The remaining 23 U.P. ArtPrize competitors will display their artwork in 18 other venues including such popular stops as The B.O.B., The Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum, Fountain St. Church and Peppino’s Pizzeria and Sports Grille.

“My hope with entering my series of seven paintings titled ‘Change Is In the Air: Industrial Evolution’ is to give my work more visibility, especially among museum curators.” said Kathleen Conover from Marquette, whose work hangs in the U.P. Pavilion. The fact that upwards to 400,000 people will see her work over the show’s two-and-a-half-week span will help raise awareness of her talents to an even broader audience.

“A critical aspect of ArtPrize is that you have to physically go to the event to register to vote,” said Pasqua Warstler, executive and gallery director for the Bonifas Arts Center in Escanaba, and a key organizer of the U.P. ArtPrize participants. There are eight neighborhood hubs in Grand Rapids that take registrants names and email addresses. “Our hope is that people from the U.P. will attend ArtPrize, or encourage their downstate friends and relatives to go and vote for our U.P. 51.” Registration instructions are at www.artprize.org.

Once registered, Warstler said voters can choose their favorite artwork using their mobile devices or computers. There is no limit to how many art entries individual voters can choose in Round 1, which runs from Sept. 21 to Oct. 1 at 11:59 p.m. The top five vote getters in four categories will determine the final 20 contestants. From this list, voters in Round 2 determine the winners in each of the four categories, with the entry receiving the most votes being awarded the grand prize. Round 2 voting takes place Oct. 2 to 11:59 p.m. Oct. 6. A group of art experts will determine the four winners, including the grand prize winner, of the juror contest.

For Warstler, getting hundreds of thousands of people to view and vote for the U.P. art at ArtPrize is only half of her goal. The other is to entice ArtPrize-goers to visit the U.P. this fall and discover not only the rich arts and culture that have flourished there for centuries, but to see the magnificent land, shorelines, waterfalls and northern lights skies that inspire them. To make that easier, the U.P. arts community has collaborated creating an online map at www.upartandculture.com that pinpoints galleries, arts and culture centers and museums. Warstler said sponsorships from Bays de Noc Convention & Visitors Bureau, Keweenaw Convention & Visitors Bureau, St. Ignace Visitors Bureau and Travel Marquette helped with the development and ongoing expansion of the map. For a comprehensive calendar of upcoming U.P. performances, art exhibits, cultural events and festivals she recommends going to www.uptravel.com.

“Of course as much as we want people from the U.P. to go to ArtPrize and support our 51 artists, we understand that not everyone can make the trip to Grand Rapids,” said Warstler. “So we are hosting a homecoming event, the U.P. Premiere from ArtPrize, at The Bonifas Arts Center on Oct. 15 through Nov. 2.” She added that a reception will be held Oct. 22, 1-3 p.m., with light refreshments, music by students from Superior String Alliance and an opportunity to meet the artists. Sponsors for this special event include Michigan Council for the Arts & Cultural Affairs, The Movers: Escanaba Moving Systems, Thrivent Financial and Imperial Beverages.

“It’s important to see how we interpret the U.P.,” said Paul Rose, a photographer from Garden, whose work ‘Winter Storage-Michigan’ can be seen at the ArtPrize venue, Woman’s City Club. “There’s something powerful about seeing art in person. But it’s even more powerful when you come here and see our inspiration.”

Michigan’s U.P. is a 16,452-square-mile region north of the Straits of Mackinac. It is world-renowned for its wilderness adventures, waterfalls, Great Lakes resort towns and lighthouses, art, historic sites, islands and regional food. For more information, visit www.uptravel.com, Facebook.com/uptravel or call 800-562-7134.


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