ArtPrize 2015 – Fountain Street Church

I had a chance to check out ArtPrize 2015 today. For those of you who are not familiar with ArtPrize, it is a festival that lasts from September 23 through October 11 this year in Grand Rapids, Michigan. During this time various acts of art are displayed both inside and outside and visitors have the option to vote for which pieces they like the most.

Because Amy and I live downtown now, every day is ArtPrize. Wherever you go, you see some kind of art. In fact, it kind of reminds me of living in New York. Whenever I would walk from any one point to any other point, I had this high probability of stumbling across some nationally- or world-renowned landmark that I had never seen before. Obviously, ArtPrize is not quite as big as New York City, but it is definitely interesting here at this time of year.

I attended Fountain Street Church this morning and took time to peruse some of the art displayed inside the historical building where they hold services.

Lee Kronenberg, "World Peace - The Hope"

Lee Kronenberg, “World Peace – The Hope”

The first piece that stood out for me was a sculpture titled, “World Peace – The Hope” by Lee Kronenberg. You can call me a sucker, but the simplicity of the message is enough to win me over. On the table nearby this installation there is even an interactive post card which reads

The Word to the Language?

and then lists “Fred,” “PAZ,” “ειρηνη,” etc., on one side and “French,” “German,” “Arabic,” etc. on the other. I’m a nut for world languages and a hippy at heart, so “World Peace – The Hope” was a shoe-in for my vote.

While I was certainly inspired by this homage to peace, my current forerunner (after viewing the pieces displayed at only one venue) is “200+” by Candace Compton Pappas.

Candace Compton Pappas - 200+

Candace Compton Pappas – 200+

This painting of a wide variety of birds caught my eye immediately, but when I read the placard next to it I was nearly brought to tears. Another simply piece, “200+” is Pappas’s meditation on the mass kidnapping of schoolgirls in Nigeria by the terrorist group Boka Haram that was announced in the news in April of 2014. To date, there are still over 200 girls unaccounted for, so Pappas got up one day and decided she was going to paint a bird for each missing girl.

It is hard to give an idea of how enormous this painting is and how grave its message. Make sure to add Fountain Street Church to your itinerary as you plan out your next week of ArtPrize viewing. For those of you who are not religious, Fountain Street Church has dedicated their interior viewing areas to works of art that tackle difficult issues of social justice from war to economic inequality to violence in the name of religion. In fact, some of you may have recently read about Nabil Mousa’s piece titled “Paradise Built on the Bones of the Slaughtered,” a piece that was to be displayed at Grand Rapids City Hall but which was pulled from ArtPrize before anyone could see it because it depicted burnt holy scriptures attached to the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center. Mousa had originally petitioned to have his fourteen-foot indoor sculpture displayed at Fountain Street before he was offered the space at City Hall, and returned to the church once City Hall revoked him. Ultimately, the church board decided that they couldn’t afford to hire private security contractors to guard the controversial piece, so it looks like it is going to remain with Mousa in Atlanta instead of being displayed at Grand Rapids’ ArtPrize. I can understand Fountain Street’s concerns. I still find the City’s motives suspect.

Finally, I was sad to learn that a sculpture by Ella Faktorovich titled, “Unholy,” could not be displayed at Fountain Street Church because it was damaged during shipment from San Francisco. From the image I was able to see in the ArtPrize App this piece certainly looked like something I would be interested in.

Ella Faktorovich - Unholy

Ella Faktorovich – Unholy

Ella, if you’re reading this, I have little doubt that I would have voted for “Unholy.” I want to express my condolences. As someone who has taken on his fair share of creative enterprises, though none quite as beautiful as this, I know that the work can take on a life of its own. As such, I mourn with you in the loss of this breathtaking piece. I have had the privilege to see this photo, but I would have been happy to see it in person.

Enjoy ArtPrize, visitors and residents of Grand Rapids. This is my first year to seriously take it in, and I’ve already come across some pieces that have really made me think, feel, and bask in awe. I expect there will be more to come.

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