It was May 6, 2009. I received an email announcement initiated by the Urban Institute of Contemporary Art in Grand Rapids, Michigan to participate in an "irresistible social experiment called ArtPrize." Okay . . . "It's time to reboot the conversation between artists and the public" read the press release. "ArtPrize will be a celebration of art, design and innovation that will bring artists and the public together like never before."
Intriguing. I read on. Plans to turn the city of Grand Rapids (close to the size of Boise) into one magnificent art gallery. Hmpf. No curators? No judges? Prize money? Winners determined by a public vote? Sign up, find a venue - could it really be that easy? Yup!
We (Earle Swope, my co-collaborator) already had a project and regional interest for our work Immigrant Shadows. We went for it. Earle took charge of the application process, I gathered the images, we wrote and rewrote our introduction, had a couple of photo shoots,(first and failed shoot amidst the aspens at Katherine Albertson park - and a last minute reshoot outside Fire Captain Earle's station house). We uploaded the stuff, applied for venues and waited.
But not that long. A few days of emails back and forth with the venue, a few late night conversations, quite a few "can you even believe this?" and OMG. We had a venue! Not just any venue. A four story 19th century building with 50 feet of windows right in the heart of Grand Rapids. But wait . . . there's more. Our project, Immigrant Shadows celebrates early immigrants to Idaho who found work as sheepherders. They carved their names, dates, hometowns, imagery: beer mugs, animals, sailboats,figures, naked women . . . and beautiful poetry in the alpine aspen groves in Idaho and throughout the mountains of the western U.S. They originally came from the Basque country, today they come from Argentina, Peru, Chile, Brazil and Mexico. Okay, that was a long lead to why our venue was and is such a great fit. But are you ready? Our exhibition was chosen to hang in a very popular Grand Rapids Spanish Tapas Restaurant. It's called San Chez Bistro. They've earned a national award as one of fifty of the best Hispanic Restaurants in the country. They are socially responsible, support the arts, the community, sustainability - I could go on and on - check 'em out: http://www.sanchezbistro.com/about_history.html
Okay, that's a start.
I've got a lot of posts ahead to get up to where we are today. We're packing the crate and we leave in 18 days.