GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — A set of wooden dogs may have seen more of the country than many of us: They’ve been all over the nation in the last year.
Looking at them, you can imagine the friendly wag of a tail or the puppy kisses saying hello. But the dogs have a very different story to tell and they told it so well that their maker won the $200,000 public vote grand prize of ArtPrize Eight.
Artist Jim Mellick says a lot happened in the year since his win.
The piece, Wounded Warrior Dogs, continues getting attention and praise from veterans. The carved wooden dogs pay tribute to U.S. veterans, showing the injuries of their human counterparts after battle.
Mellick donated some of his winnings to veterans’ organizations, published a book on his experience at ArtPrize and said the award money also allowed him to focus on retirement.
“This past year has just been sort of a whirlwind of activity,” Mellick told 24 Hour News 8 in an interview from Ohio. “I’ve had a hard time getting my work done because of the demand to have these dogs displayed in different locations.”
He came back to Grand Rapids to see some of the ArtPrize Nine entries and he walked away with a sense of hope.
“It seems that we’ve become so divided and I’m hoping that this artwork, these paintings of 9/11, can help us get back to some form of unity,” he said.
Oil painting “9/11” is a public vote finalist in ArtPrize Nine, one that perhaps carries the same tone as Mellick’s focus on veterans. Some of it focuses on firefighters, who the artist described as “devastated but not broken,” helping each other after the attack on the World Trade Center.
Another 2017 public vote finalist is one Mellick could possibly relate to, a wood carving called Whimsical Harmony.
“There again, it shows a passion and I can see where it would be a favorite for a lot of kids attending the display as well,” Mellick said of the entry.
He knows what it’s like to be up for the big prize, but one year later, he now truly knows what it means to win.
“Sometimes you feel like you’re working alone and you might have some regrets,” he said. “That win wiped out any regrets that I had. The validation of the people on that scale was very meaningful to me and it gave me new resolve to continue my work and to work at my cause and my purpose even more strongly.”
You can see where Wounded Warrior Dogs will be on display next at the Facebook page for the piece.