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Tonight's the night! ArtPrize winners to be announced


Start practicing your drum rolls, people. 

It's ArtPrize's big night, with some $560,ooo ready to be handed out to the winners in downtown Grand Rapids this evening.  

With voting closed as of midnight today, let's go over the rules one last time: the public votes for one set of winners, and a jury selects their own favorites. Organizers are hoping there'll be some overlap, as they're trying to keep the more avant-garde artists involved in ArtPrize, and not just the big crowd-pleasers. 

But the crowd-pleasers get the fun awards! Or at least, the biggest pile of money: $200,000 for the entry with the most votes from the public. Some 400,000 votes have already been cast.

If your memory's good, you'll notice that first prize for the public's pick has been slashed by $50,000 from last year's quarter-million dollar jackpot. 

That's because organizers (really, let's just say it: Rick DeVos, ArtPrize founder and local Amway heir) are trying to balance out thefocus between the preference of the masses, and the kind of entries that juries lean towards. So let's all welcome a brand new prize this year: $100,000 to the jury's first place pick. 

One particularly popular entry: "Lights in the Night," a one-night performance piece by Mark Carpenter and his business partner, Dan Johnson.  Johnson says  some 15,000 paper lanterns were sent floating over the Grand River last F riday night. "Every lantern represented a hope or a dream of someone in the community. And then the community comes together and they launch the hopes and the dreams of the community together."

Artist Richard Morse was also voted into the public's top 10. His says his sculpture of wooden horses in the Grand River, "Stick-to-itiveness," is about human struggle - something he might have a lot less of, should he win that money tonight.  "Well, [I'd pay] bills of course. And I have a truck that's dying! Little things, you know? I think I would also reinvent myself so I can pursue my art full time."
The winners will be unveiled around 7:30 this evening.    

Kate Wells is a Peabody Award-winning journalist currently covering public health. She was a 2023 Pulitzer Prize finalist for her abortion coverage.