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ArtPrize, sponsored by the DeVos Foundation in Grand Rapids, Michigan, is a one-of-a kind international art extravaganza featuring artistic creations by more than 1,200 artists and artistic teams.

The Dick and Betsy DeVos Family Foundation is the presenting sponsor of ArtPrize. DeVos, a native of Grand Rapids and founder of the Amway Company. The event’s purpose is to reboot the conversation between artist and audience on a grand scale, according to the mission statement.

With a top prize of $250,000, competition is fierce for the biggest prize money offered in any juried art show in the world. The second place finisher takes home $100,000. Third prize is $50,000. Artists whose work is chosen fourth through 10th place receive $7,000 each. The remaining 1,190 competitors go home with fantastic memories and tall tales of their Grand Rapid’s experience.

For two and half weeks at the beginning of fall, the downtown area of Grand Rapids is converted into a massive art gallery with everything from sculptures, paintings, balloons, and video presentations dotting sidewalks and building lobbies, or scattered over rooftops.

The competition is open to artists of all skill levels and experience from well known artists to those striving to build their reputations. Each artist is limited to a single entry in the show. Like the competitors in ArtPrize, the judges aren’t your typical art experts.

Residents, visitors and artists register to vote at various stations throughout the exhibition area. During the first week of the contest, voters cast a single vote up or down for each entry in the exhibit. Up means the voter connected with the artwork and felt an emotional reaction to the piece. Down means the piece failed to speak to the voter.

During week two, voters cast a single up vote for the artistic piece they deem the best of the show. The artist whose work gets the most up votes will take home the top prize. Votes are tallied using the latest electronic technology such as online balloting, text messaging, and mobile phones to pick the winning entry. The winner is announced at a gala that is free and open to the public, although there is a charge for refreshments and beverages during the award gathering.

About 1,000 community volunteers came together to act as hosts at each venue to aid in the smooth flow of visitors to the heart of Grand Rapids.

If you go to ArtPrize, be prepared to spend more than a day to fully view and appreciate the offerings presented in the extensive exhibit. Sandwiched between Leonard Street on the north and Wealthy Street on the south is a display of artistic work and effort that boggles the mind.

Whether you prefer paintings, sculpture, video presentations, a giant floating pink balloon or the man in the van who traveled the country and recorded peoples’ thoughts about the current recession, there is a bounty of unique art work. Something is sure to strike your fancy and take root in your mind and in your heart.