2009 ArtPrize (Michigan)
Rick DeVos, grandson of the founder of Amway (and son of Dick and Betsy DeVos), wanted to boost the arts in western Michigan. He initially explored the idea of a film festival, but concluded his hometown would have nothing unique to offer in that crowded field. Instead, he settled on a more unorthodox idea: a citywide art contest.
Borrowing ideas from science contents that have offered large cash prizes for the best inventions, DeVos established clear and simple rules. And he added his own twist by turning his entire city into the gallery where entries would be displayed (in public locations all across Grand Rapids). Then he got really unconventional: Everyday people would be the judges, selecting winners by popular vote.
DeVos’s goal wasn’t high art, it was to build interest in creativity within his region. He succeeded. By its second year the contest attracted 1,700 artists and 400,000 votes from Michiganders and others visiting from all over the world. The Dick and Betsy DeVos Family Foundation kicks in about a million and a half dollars every year to defray the festival’s cost of about $3 million per annum.
- ArtPrize 2014 annual report, artprizeannualreport.org
- Philanthropy magazine reporting, philanthropyroundtable.org/topic/excellence_in_philanthropy/contesting_art
- Wall Street Journal analysis, magazine.wsj.com/hunter/donate/critical-mass