GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD/AP) — The sixth annual ArtPrize, the world’s largest art competition, kicked off in Grand Rapids Wednesday.
Organizers say there are more than 1,500 entries from 42 states and territories and 51 countries at 174 venues. Over the course of about three weeks, artists compete for a combination of public votes and juried prizes to secure part of a prize pool of $560,000.
Announced with a whistle, ArtPrize 2014 officially began at noon. Within the first six hours, more than 7,000 votes had been cast.
But some artists were still working on their entries Wednesday.
Pixie Shaw of Toronto took advantage of the golden morning sun to polish her giant apple sculpture called “Big Michigan,” located outside DeVos Place.
“So many children touch it, and I invite them to,” Shaw said.
Bjorn Sparrman of Shorewood, Minn., has been working on his entry, “The Grand River Checkpoint Project,” all summer — but he was still scrambling to finish the installment on Gillett Bridge Wednesday. He said he’s leaving Thursday morning, so he had to be done Wednesday night.
ArtPrize doesn’t have any rules about when an artist must be finished. Many people enjoy watching the artists work.
“I think a lot of ArtPrize visitors like to see that,” ArtPrize Director of Communications Todd Herring said. “Adonna Khare, who won ArtPrize in 2012, she worked on her piece all the way through the entire event.”
Tom Panei said he prefers to work through the competition. This is his fifth ArtPrize.
“I’ve been doing it every year. I come up and I work on a piece here. So people come back and they look at the progress all week long,” he said.
This year, his entry “I Hear the Train a Comin'” is at the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Library and Museum.
There has been a buzz among critics and artists alike for the last several weeks that this year’s event is drawing a better class of art. ArtPrize is tossing around the buzzword ‘mature.’
“ArtPrize is trying hard to break down the cloisters of the kind of formal or elite kind of art world where people don’t feel welcome. We want to create an environment that is welcoming to everybody,” ArtPrize Executive Director Christian Gaines said.
Gaines said he’s excited about the way venues have curated their entries. For example, the Urban Institute of Contemporary Art set collaboration as its theme, and the Grand Rapids Art Museum’s theme is “[DIS]COMFORT ZONES.” Other venues are also working thematically.
Gov. Rick Snyder helped launch ArtPrize 2014 by taking part in the inaugural Nerd Walk, accompanied by the Grand Valley State University Laker Marching Band and Dance Company.
People can download the free ArtPrize app for iPhone and Android to vote throughout the 19-day competition. Those interested in voting must be within the downtown ArtPrize district in order to activate their account.
ArtPrize runs through Oct. 12.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.