ArtPrize to return to Grand Rapids debt free

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — The financial struggle for ArtPrize is officially over.

Organizers announced Thursday morning the competition is now free of its debt, which topped out at $3.8 million in 2012.

Corporate sponsorships played a major role in the turnaround, as well as the more than half a million people who filled downtown Grand Rapids last year for ArtPrize Eight.


Visitors came from all 50 states and 47 countries; ArtPrize officials said 63 percent of visitors traveled more than 30 miles to attend ArtPrize Eight.

Each day, the competition lured approximately 26,710 visitors to Grand Rapids, officials said.

ArtPrize says those visitors injected an estimated $28.6 million into the local economy, leading to an uptick in business for Gerald R. Ford International Airport and area hotels.

“Visitors are coming from farther away, bringing more people with them, staying longer and spending more,” stated Todd Herring, ArtPrize director of creative and communications.

Herring says ArtPrize is also having a lasting effect on Grand Rapids. A survey by Anderson Economic Group showed nearly half of visitors said they were more likely to revisit downtown.


Organizers focused on lowering the carbon impact of ArtPrize Eight, with three-stream waste systems they say diverted a quarter of event waste from landfills and incinerators.

The ArtPrize Water Share program encouraging reusable water bottles also eliminated the use of 11,523 disposable plastic water bottles and kept another 8,901 of them out of the landfill, according to event officials.

More visitors also turned to alternative means to get around the event. An estimated 46,000 ArtPrize visitors relied on The Rapid rather than driving.

Visitors tallied nearly 200,000 miles of walking on ArtPrize’s Pantone Pathways – nearly equivalent to circling the earth 50 times, according to event officials.


ArtPrize organizers said half of the 19-day event’s total budget now comes from corporate sponshorships, including the $500,000 in cash prizes and nearly $300,000 in event grants.

>>Inside ArtPrize Eight winners | ArtPrize Eight photos

Those corporate sponsors have also committed more than $3 million to ArtPrize through 2020, according to event officials.

ArtPrize Executive Director Christian Gaines said the goal is to turn the event into a “financially independent nonprofit organization.”


In 2017, ArtPrize plans to double the reach of its pitch night grant program, expanding it to three more cities to encourage more out-of-state artists and large projects.

The events will happen in Louisville, KY; Durham, North Carolina; Bentonville, AR, Detroit, New Orleans and Indianapolis.

ArtPrize also hopes to build on student participation in the event, which more than doubles between 2015 and 2016.

Organizers also outlined the schedule for ArtPrize Nine:

  • Venue registration: March 6 – April 6
  • Artist registration: April 17 – June 8
  • Competition: Sept. 20 – Oct. 8




***CORRECTION: An earlier release from ArtPrize stated the economic impact was $27.8; a revised release stated the impact was $28.6 million. The above story has been updated to reflect the revised amount.***