Public picks Wounded Warrior Dogs to win ArtPrize Eight

Juried grand prized awarded to The Bureau of Personal Belonging

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.

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — ArtPrize Eight’s largest prizes went to entries focused on issues that unite and divide society. The $200,000 public vote grand prize went to Wounded Warrior Dogs by James Mellick; Stacey Kirby’s The Bureau of Personal Belonging won the $200,000 juried grand prize.

“Wow. … I thank the people of Grand Rapids, I thank you the people of Michigan who told me they drove three hours just to come down to see this exhibition, and the people around the country,” Mellick said, sounding somewhat overwhelmed after finding out he had won at Friday’s ArtPrize Awards ceremony. “Thank you.”

>>Photos: ArtPrize Eight Awards night

Wounded Warrior Dogs is a collection of wooden dog sculptures with the same wounds their human companions suffered in battle. Each of the six dogs represents a war; a seventh dog resting in a flag-draped coffin represents military members who made the ultimate sacrifice.

The traveling exhibition is aimed at raising awareness about the sacrifice and needs of wounded veterans. Donations collected at the exhibition will go to local veterans organizations that support wounded warriors.

>>ArtPrize grand prize winners highlight social issues

After ArtPrize announced the Final 20 Sunday, 24 Hour News 8 tracked down Mellick to find out what he would do if he won the grand prize.

“I’m going on 70. My retirement might be a little bit more secure. A portion of that, 10 percent, I’m giving to the cause that I represent through the dogs, and that’s to organizations that help both the dogs and returning veterans,” said the Ohio native, who also previously taught at Calvin College.

Mellick also won the public vote three-dimensional category award.

artprize eight, grand prize winners

The Bureau of Personal Belonging is a time-based entry that involves the visitor in a conversation about how government defines identity, particularly gender and sexual orientation. The setting represents a 60s era bureaucratic office space and is comprised of three works: The Declaration Project, VALIDnation and I AM. Grand Rapids natives are included in each performance, and visitors are encouraged to contact their lawmakers about certain bills.

ArtPrize Eight, Stacey Kirby, The Bureau of Personal Belonging, juried grand prize
Stacey Kirby after finding out her piece, The Bureau of Personal Belonging, had won the juried grand prize during ArtPrize Eight. (Oct. 7, 2016)

“I’d like to thank my family and my community in North Carolina who is getting ready for a hurricane right now. The Grand Rapids community — you’ve been amazing — and the community volunteers that have stepped up to perform this work,” Kirby said after her win was announced.

Kirby previously won a $5,000 grant during ArtPrize’s inaugural Pitch Night in North Carolina.

>>Maps (PDF): Final 20 || Shortlist

The public and jurors also chose winners in four categories, each of whom were awarded a $12,500 prize.


artprize eight, public vote category winners


artprize eight, juried category winners

>>Why These Finalists? 2-D and installation and 3-D and time-based

SiTE:LAB/Rumsey St. Project’s EVERYTHING IS TRANSFORMED and 912 Grandville Avenue’s This Space is Not Abandoned tied to win the juried award for Outstanding Venue.

This was the first time a juror has split the Outstanding Venue award between two finalists. The curator of 912 Grandville Avenue, Steffanie Rosalez, was mentored by Paul Amenta, curator of SiTE:LAB, which has won the outstanding venue honor for five years now.

artprize eight, outstanding venue winners

Some $500,000 in cash prizes were handed out during the eighth annual ArtPrize Awards ceremony, powered by the DTE Energy Foundation. The event aired live on WOOD TV8 and was screened at a party at Rosa Parks Circle, which also featured live music from The Outer Vibe and The Accidentals.

Watch the complete ArtPrize Awards show below. App users can click here to watch it.


Several independent awards were also announced during the ArtPrize Awards ceremony.

The Fountain Street Church organized two $1,000 independent awards that independent jurors awarded to “Defacement” by Patrick Foran of Buffalo, New York and Girl Child Soldiers by Sana Musasama of St. Albans, New York.

The winner of the $5,000 Sustainable Art Award sponsored by Cascade Engineering is Linda Puerta for her entry, Traces.

“Once Upon A Time” by Samuel Gomez, located at SITE, won the $2,500 Artista Latino Award, sponsored by the Hispanic Center of Western Michigan and selected by juror Anel Guel of the Hispanic Center.

AMI awarded $1,000 to 10  performing artists, chosen both by public vote and jurors:

  • Rock/Blues: Lou Baron and The New Lovers for “Now That You’re Gone” (public vote) and Four Lincolns for “80 Years” (juried).
  • Folk/Country: Kari Lynch for “Sweetheart” (public vote) and Rachel Clair Eid-Ries for “Invisible Change” (juried).
  • Pop/Electronic: Bello Spark for “I’m Awake” (public vote) and Flint Eastwood for “Glitches” (juried).
  • Jazz/World Music: Robin Connell for “Prisms” (public vote) and Voice of Maasai/Jessey Jansen for “Embattled Land” (juried).
  • Orchestral/Instrumental/Classical: Matthew Fisher for “Heroes and Legends” (public vote) and Roger MacNaughton for “Danse Solemn” (juried).

“Croissant Man,” directed by Tulica Singh was awarded the $5,000 Best Michigan-Made Short Film Prize, presented by the Michigan Film & Digital Media Office. “The Birth of a Nation” by Nate Turner won the $2,500 public vote prize for best feature film, presented by Celebration! Cinema.

“Still Silent, Still Missing” by Kimberly Gill won the $5,000 first-place Paul Collins Art Award. “Museum Mixtape (Dirty South Edition)” by Juan Obando took the $1,000 second-place prize and “SOWN #SHEroes” by Ms J./Diva of Design took the $500 third-place award.

>>ArtPrize Eight on Complete Coverage | Final 20 | Juror’s Shorlist

ArtPrize Eight featured 1,453 pieces of art at 170 venues. While this year was the rainiest ArtPrize in the competition’s history, a record 37,433 visitors registered to vote in this year’s competition, casting 380,119 votes between Sept. 21 and Oct. 6.

ArtPrize Eight ends at 6 p.m. Sunday.