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California art teacher and Detroit duo win top awards in ArtPrize 2012

Lindsey Smith
Michigan Radio

A part-time art teacher from Burbank, California won ArtPrize in Grand Rapids Friday night.

This was the first time Adonna Khare entered the art competition.

“I’m beyond grateful. I’m excited and completely surprised. But words cannot describe how happy I’m feeling right now,” Khare said.

Khare’s 36 foot long drawing, Elephants, features life sized elephants and other animals. She used only pencil, an eraser and a sock to create it. It took her a year and a half to make and she continued to work on it throughout the three week competition.

Credit Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio
Michigan Radio
Adonna Khare speaks with reporters at a press conference Friday evening.

Khare doesn’t know what she’ll use the $200,000 prize money for yet. But she will splurge on a new mattress. “Cause ours is terrible when you lay on the sides you roll into the center… so I’m going to do that, as soon as I get home,” Khare laughed.

She plans to continue teaching this year – but admits the win and the money will make a big difference to her. “I’m not sure what’s going to happen. I don’t know. Everything’s just kind of changed,” Khare said.

The top juried award went to Detroit artists Gina Reichert and Mitch Cope for their 3-D piece, Displacement. The couple runs Design 99, a non-profit that attempts to stabilize housing and bring artists to their neighborhood.

Displacement is made of a collection of items from an 900-square-foot home on their block. One of their neighbors told them it was empty. An elderly man living there had “presumably passed away” and it was full of stuff.

“After we we’re trying to fight off scrappers and thieves to try to understand what was going on we realized that it’s the whole family history of 100 years,” Cope said. They are not aware of any living relatives of the homeowner.

“The public prize is really important because it really gets the public excited about art for once,” Cope said. He says the juried award, this year $100,000, brings a “level of professionalism” to the event. The juried award has increased nearly every year since it began 4 years ago.

The two said they had preferred to win the juried award and never expected to win the popular vote. “Our work doesn’t bank on spectacle,” Reichert said.

“We agreed that we’d put half (the prize money) away and ignore it. Pretend that we didn’t get it – that it didn’t exist. Because to do the show – we got home and we realized that we were negative $38 in our bank account,” they said.

ArtPrize organizers estimate the event attracted a record 400,000 people this year.

Lindsey Smith is a Peabody Award-winning journalist currently leading the station's Amplify Team. She previously served as Michigan Public's Morning News Editor, Investigative Reporter and West Michigan Reporter.
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