ArtPrize Eight grand prize winners highlight social issues

artprize eight, stacey kirby, james mellick
Stacey Kirby and James Mellick accept the grand prize awards at ArtPrize Eight. (Oct. 7, 2016)

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Both ArtPrize Eight grand prize winners are pieces with a purpose.

James Mellick of Ohio won the public vote grand prize for his piece, Wounded Warrior Dogs. Stacey Kirby of North Carolina won the juried award for The Bureau of Personal Belonging. Both of them will go home with $200,000.

>>Photos: ArtPrize Eight Awards night

Kirby’s piece is a time-based, interactive entry that involves the visitor in a conversation about how government defines identity, particularly gender and sexual orientation. ArtPrize-goers were asked to declare their personal belongings — “maybe something you’re thinking about, or maybe a hope, a wish, a dream. Maybe even a frustration — maybe you want to file a complaint with the complaints officer,” Kirby explained to 24 Hour News 8 Friday night, only a couple of hours after her win.

The idea, she explained, is to “open a space for people to think about what’s going on within them and then what’s going on around them and then bring those two things together.”

ArtPrize Eight, Stacey Kirby, The Bureau of Personal Belonging, juried grand prize
Stacey Kirby accepts the juried grand prize award at ArtPrize Eight. (Oct. 7, 2016)

Kirby, a first-time ArtPrize artist, won at $5,000 grant at the Durham, North Carolina ArtPrize Night. She also got some money from a Kickstarter account.

“It’s been a great journey,” she said.

She said she hoped for success after she found out she was on the Juried Shortlist, but mostly stayed focused on presenting her piece and engaging with the community.

artprize eight, grand prize winners
Left: Wounded Warrior Dogs by James Mellick, the winner of the ArtPrize Eight public vote grand prize. Right: The Bureau of Personal Belonging by Stacey Kirby, the winner of the juried grand prize.

Wounded Warrior Dogs is about raising awareness for veterans returning from war and the dogs used by the military in war zones. It’s a collection of wooden sculptures of dogs with the same wounds their human companions suffered in battle.

“I really think this artwork was completed by the visitations and the people who came around. It was very fulfilling to see the response that the public brought and the stories they brought to the show,” Mellick told 24 Hour News 8.

He said 10 percent of his winnings will go to the K9s for Warriors project, which provides service dogs to wounded veterans.

ArtPrize Eight, James Mellick, Wounded Warrior Dogs, public vote grand prize
James Mellick accepts the public vote grand prize award at ArtPrize Eight. (Oct. 7, 2016)

He was overwhelmed with this grand prize win, which he said Friday night had not yet sunk in.

“So many people told me that I was going to win. I didn’t want to believe them because I didn’t want to get my hopes up, but sure enough it came true,” he said.

Some $500,000 in cash prizes were handed out during the eighth annual ArtPrize Awards ceremony Friday night.

ArtPrize Eight ends at 6 p.m. Sunday.


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