An ArtPrize piece created behind bars

Prisoner used soap and toilet paper to create figurines of entry titled America

Artprize Eight, D'Artagnan Little, America
America by D'Artagnan Little, displayed at Tuscan Liquor on Monroe Avenue during ArtPrize Eight. (Sept. 21, 2016)


GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Just inside the entryway at the Tuscan Liquor store in northwest Grand Rapids is an ArtPrize entry with a backstory as compelling as the piece itself.

The piece, America, is a group of more than a dozen paper mâché-looking figurines that were created by D’Artagnan Little, a man convicted of attempted murder and sexual assault in the 1980s.

A mentor of Little’s, James Dankovich, entered the pieces into ArtPrize on his behalf after purchasing them from the prisoner.

Artprize Eight, D'Artagnan Little, America
A figurine of Hillary Clinton in the ArtPrize Eight entry America by D’Artagnan Little, displayed at Tuscan Liquor on Monroe Avenue. (Sept. 21, 2016)

The figures feature well-known faces from Abraham Lincoln to the characters from the Comedy Central show “South Park.”

According to the piece’s description, Little created the figurines using soap and toilet paper provided in prison. To get color, Little asked loved ones to send him letters using construction paper. He then soaked the paper in water to extract the dye and use it as paint.

Each piece is said to have taken Little some 20 hours.

“He’s worked hard. He’s worked very hard,” Dankovich told 24 Hour News 8. “And I think he’s turned out a very unusual work of art.”

Dankovich said he had hoped to get Little’s work in a more visible venue, but in the end it was the Tuscan Liquor store at Monroe Ave. and Leonard St. NW that agreed to display the pieces.

D'Artagnan Little
A 2012 photo of D’Artagnan Little from the Michigan Department of Corrections.

If Little’s work wins, Dankovich said the plan is to create a scholarship fund with the prize money.

Little’s earliest release date is in 2018.

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