Thursday, April 23, 2009

DeVos Does Good: International Art Competition Coming to Grand Rapids

Life really does conspire to throw you curves sometimes, and this morning I'm finding myself stunned and amazed and even thrilled that I have actually titled a post "DeVos Does Good", and that Grand Rapids is being positioned to be some sort of leader in the international art community. Consider my mind blown.

The public announcement is taking place right now, but WOOD has received the details (through the AP) on the event. Just read.

Organizers of the first ArtPrize art competition hope to receive thousands of entries vying for more than $400,000 in total prize money, including the top prize of $250,000. The event will run from Sept. 23 through Oct. 10 at perhaps hundreds of venues throughout a three-square-mile area of downtown Grand Rapids.

ArtPrize creator Rick DeVos, grandson of multibillionaire Rich DeVos, a co-founder of direct-sales giant Amway Corp., and son of Dick DeVos, a former Amway president who unsuccessfully ran for governor as the GOP candidate in 2006, said Wednesday he has been considering the idea for a couple of years.

Rick DeVos said it will be an annual event, with the prize money underwritten by the Dick and Betsy DeVos Foundation. Betsy DeVos, his mother, has twice served as chairwoman of the Michigan Republican Party.

Dick and Betsy are going to pay for an art competition that has no restrictions. That was the key in this whole thing, to me anyway. To any artist, actually.

(Rick) said the competition will be open to any artist age 18 or over, whether they are professional or amateur. There will be no restrictions on the art itself.

"That's completely open," DeVos said. "It's totally multiformat, multisensory, multidisciplinary, multimedia. We're not try to prescribe a particular sort of style or message or anything like that. It's really just about a creative expression."

The winners will be voted on through interactive, social media - the web and the mobile phone - and Grand Rapids venues, both indoor and out, will host the displays. A web site will be launched later today. Besides the big money for first, $100,000 will be awarded for second place, $50,000 for third place and $7,000 for fourth through 10th places.

Rick DeVos, 27, who launched, a social networking site for film buffs, said he has attended numerous film festivals and other large-scale cultural galas. He believes Grand Rapids, a city of 200,000 people with a vibrant arts scene, is ideally suited to host a major art competition.

"I've been to a lot of these events and have seen the energy that they create for the participants but also the vitality of the communities in which they are hosted, and have thought for a long time that Grand Rapids would be a fantastic spot to create kind of a new, international event, and thought we were really ready for that," he told The Associated Press.

Grand Rapids. An art mecca. DeVos family, not trying to push an agenda. Heh. After all of that, I'm going to expect to see Cheney donate all his money to Amnesty International and Bush confess that he voted for Obama. Kudos to Rick for pushing for the idea, and kudos to Dick & Betsy for giving their kid the freedom (and the funding) to make it happen.

Credit where credit is due. The second they go back to their political agenda, well, I will too, but at this moment I'm very proud of my little town.