U.P. artists to be featured at ArtPrize

Jordan Beck | Daily Press William Bonifas Fine Arts Center Gallery/Regional Projects Director Pasqua Warstler, right, and Upper Peninsula Travel and Recreation Association Executive Director Tom Nemacheck speak during a press conference about the U.P.’s continued presence at the ArtPrize competition in Grand Rapids Friday.

ESCANABA — Artists from the Upper Peninsula will once again be featured in a special pavilion at this year’s ArtPrize competition in Grand Rapids. Representatives of the William Bonifas Fine Arts Center and the Upper Peninsula Travel and Recreation Association (UPTRA) discussed the region’s continued presence at ArtPrize during a press conference at the Bonifas Arts Center Friday.

The ArtPrize competition, which is held annually in downtown Grand Rapids, features a variety of types of art and offers two grand prizes of $200,000 each. One of these grand prizes is awarded through a public vote, while the other is awarded by a jury.

Bonifas Gallery/Regional Projects Director Pasqua Warstler said 2018 marks the third time that Upper Peninsula-based artists will have a space of their own at ArtPrize. The location of this year’s U.P. Pavilion has not yet been officially determined, but Warstler and ArtPrize have identified a few potential venues.

This year, the Bonifas will continue to work with the Mackinac Arts Council to encourage U.P. artists to get involved with ArtPrize. As part of this collaboration, a “sneak peek” exhibit of works by regional artists titled “Crossing the Straits: U.P. Art to Mackinac Island” will be held on Mackinac Island starting on Aug. 12.

“The artwork that is bound for ArtPrize will go to Mackinac Island first,” Warstler said. This artwork will be on display across the island’s business district and at Mission Point Resort.

The Bonifas has also started working with colleges in the area to encourage U.P. students to register for this year’s ArtPrize. Colleges involved in this initiative include Northern Michigan University, Lake Superior State University, and Finlandia University’s International School of Art and Design. Students from Finlandia will develop promotional materials for the U.P.’s presence at ArtPrize, as well.

“They all want to work with us to promote their students in the venues downstate,” Warstler said of the participating colleges. She noted that the Bonifas is in talks with Bay College about this initiative, and talks are pending with Michigan Technological University.

Warstler said that many ArtPrize venues are looking for fresh, experimental art. Providing them with an opportunity to feature pieces like this made by young artists could encourage these venues to host the U.P. Pavilion, she said.

“We (want to) add that component to the U.P. presence,” Warstler said.

The Bonifas is continuing their existing partnership with UPTRA to bring exposure to regional artists’ involvement with ArtPrize. UPTRA will feature the U.P. Pavilion and “Crossing the Straits: U.P. Art to Mackinac Island” in their nationwide promotional campaign for 2018.

UPTRA Executive Director Tom Nemacheck spoke about the connections between the arts and tourism during Friday’s press conference.

“In reality, the people that travel want to see our arts and culture,” he said.

He also noted that modern tourists tend to look for authenticity when traveling, and that the arts are an important part of life in the U.P.

“They don’t want to stand on the sidelines and observe — they want to be part of something when they come to a place,” Nemacheck said.

While his office does not have data on the impact ArtPrize has had on tourism in the Upper Peninsula, Nemacheck said anecdotal evidence suggests that it has increased interest in visiting the region.

“We did see (online) traffic generated through us because of the U.P. exhibit in Grand Rapids,” he said.

This year’s ArtPrize competition will be held from Sept. 19 to Oct. 7, and registration will be open from April 16 to June 7. To learn more about the Bonifas’ involvement with ArtPrize, visit bonifasarts.org/artprize. For more information on ArtPrize as a whole, or to register for the competition, visit artprize.org.