Eyes on the ArtPrize

Dallas embraces status as world-class art city with launch of ArtPrize

Dallas embraces status as world-class art city with launch of ArtPrize

Anila Quayuum Agha
Anila Quayuum Agha's Intersections. Photo courtesy of ArtPrize
ArtPrize crowd
Crowds at ArtPrize in Grand Rapids, Michigan, where it began in 2009. Photo courtesy of ArtPrize
Ariel Saldivar at Bespoke at Dallas Contemporary
ArtPrize Dallas executive director Ariel Saldivar. Photo by Jerry McClure
Sonya Clark
Detail of Sonya Clark's Hair Craft Project. Photo courtesy of ArtPrize
Anila Quayuum Agha
ArtPrize crowd
Ariel Saldivar at Bespoke at Dallas Contemporary
Sonya Clark

Dallas artists both established and aspiring have a reason for good cheer this holiday season. The international art competition ArtPrize just announced a Big D expansion in 2016, with up to $560,000 prizes and grants for local talent.

Established in 2009 in Grand Rapids, Michigan, by entrepreneur Rick DeVos, the 19-day event takes over venues both traditional and unexpected — lobbies, laundromats and auto body shops among them — with contemporary art, providing a critical dialogue among both the general populace and art critics.

Having a $22.2 million economic impact on Grand Rapids in 2013 alone, the expansion of ArtPrize was always a foregone conclusion, and the organization’s executive director, Christian Gaines, says Dallas is just the right place to do it. 

 “Dallas seems to have an appetite for it,” says ArtPrize executive director Christian Gaines.

“The impact it could have on a city was established after its second year, and we spent time thinking about and developing the guiding principles about what ArtPrize is,” Gaines says. “We had a few conversations with different cities, but when we started to talk to Dallas, we got a sense quickly of a community that was really ready for ArtPrize.

“Dallas seems to have an appetite for it, and the conversations just sped up and got more and more interesting.”

Former Goss-Michael Foundation associate director Ariel Saldivar, who served as an ArtPrize juror in the 2014 competition, will take on the role of executive director of ArtPrize Dallas. Having approached crucial players in the Dallas arts scene, she found a warm reception for the concept, starting with Mayor Mike Rawlings.

“Dallas right now is in a very different time than it was 10 years ago or even five years ago,” Saldivar says. “There’s such an appetite here with Aurora and the Dallas Art Fair coming to town and in terms of a growing art community. There’s also room to expand the arts audience. The artists are hungry for it, and ArtPrize will be part of that story.”

Although still in the planning stages, the event will mostly likely launch the week after the Dallas Art Fair in downtown and Deep Ellum, with possible expansion to the Cedars and Fair Park. Any artist over the age of 18 is eligible to register online, and venues will connect online with talent at artprize.org. The public can vote on works via mobile devices to award half the prize money, with a jury of international experts rewarding the other half.

“You can compare and contrast what the public thinks and what the experts think,” Gaines says. “Anyone can self-identify as an artist, and anyone who identifies as a venue can participate. The purpose of that is to make the process truly open and accessible to all.”

With an average of 400,000 visitors, this annual event should have a significant impact on both the culture and the economy of Dallas. “Whether you’re an artist or venue or any kind of business or nonprofit or family or individual, you’re looking at that big holiday and coming up with ideas on how to celebrate it,” Gaines says. “Everyone’s got a part to play, and that’s what’s fun about it.”