An art contest where everyone gets a vote

Members of the public will be able to use mobile devices and the web to choose the winner of what organizers are billing as one of the largest art prizes in the world.

Rick DeVos talks about his plans for ArtPrize

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — Members of the public will be able to use mobile devices and the web to choose the winner of what organizers are billing as one of the largest art prizes in the world.

Organizers of the first ArtPrize art competition hope to receive thousands of entries vying for more than US$400,000 in total prize money, including a top prize of $250,000, they announced Thursday.

The contest is open to any artist in the world over the age of 18, professional or amateur.

ArtPrize’s creator is Rick DeVos, grandson of multibillionaire Rich DeVos, a co-founder of direct-sales giant Amway Corp., and son of Dick DeVos, a former Amway president who unsuccessfully ran for governor in 2006.

He said he has been considering the idea for a couple of years and it will be an annual event, with the prize money underwritten by the Dick and Betsy DeVos Foundation.

Betsy DeVos, his mother, has twice served as chairwoman of the Michigan Republican Party.

DeVos, 27, who launched Spout.com, a social networking site for film buffs, said he has attended numerous film festivals and other large-scale cultural galas.

He believes Grand Rapids, a city of 200,000 with a vibrant arts scene, is ideally suited to host a major art competition.

“I’ve been to a lot of these events and have seen the energy that they create for the participants but also the vitality of the communities in which they are hosted, and have thought for a long time that Grand Rapids would be a fantastic spot to create kind of a new, international event, and thought we were really ready for that,” he said.

The city has offered up parks and bridges as outdoor venues. Many businesses are expected to convert lobbies and public spaces for displays.

“ArtPrize will excite the world, and the world will look at our city differently because of it,” Grand Rapids Mayor George Heartwell said in a written statement.

Thousands of artists are expected to submit entries and their works are likely to attract art enthusiasts from around the globe, DeVos said.

He said the competition will be open to any artist age 18 or over, whether they are professional or amateur,. and there are no restrictions on the art itself.

“That’s completely open,” DeVos said. “It’s totally multiformat, multisensory, multidisciplinary, multimedia. We’re not try to prescribe a particular sort of style or message or anything like that. It’s really just about a creative expression.”

Besides the quarter-million-dollar first prize, $100,000 will be awarded for second place, $50,000 for third place and $7,000 for fourth through 10th places.

Contest entries and voters must be registered at the ArtPrize website launched Thursday at http://artprize.org.

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