My afternoon with Occupy Grand Rapids

No bail money was needed at the Occupy Grand Rapids rally this past Saturday, coincidentally located at the tiny Monument Park across a busy street from the Grand Rapids Police Department.  A diverse group of about 30 fed-up people gathered to protest the state of our union and listen to scheduled speakers on topics such as consensus, the legal boundaries of local ordinances in regard to public assembly, and managing various media outlets.  There was an abundance of heart and rebellious attitude in the small group which grew in number as the afternoon wore on.  Several
folks held up signs along the sidewalk, others knelt on the grass listening to speakers, and spontaneous group discussions popped up as people introduced themselves to one another.  Vehicles driving by honked their passive support and a few passers-by yelled out, “Get a job!”  This is a fledgling movement that is in the early organizational stage, which is my way of saying that the Occupy Grand Rapids movement is in need of structure.
Although an organized structure is practical and I think essential, the Occupy movement was born out of frustration and anger, so it may take some time to create long-burning coals from the initial blaze.  Occupy Grand Rapids has a core group that have the potential of long-burning coals, but personal time constraints of even the most devoted highlight a need for a larger group of participants to assist with the organizational aspects.  Children must be cared for, work and college require participation, and personal relationships need attention.

This is all my opinion, on my blog, which is not a voice for the Occupy movement, but rather the voice of a woman in her 40’s musing on life’s changes in the 5th decade.  It
seems that the biggest challenge for this movement will be engaging people like me who want to fight for concrete changes, like campaign and financial institution reform, concepts that some Occupy demonstrators deem as working within The Broken System.  While the majority of Americans are not happy with the direction of our country, we know that a few steps in the right direction can affect our 401k balances, our children’s future, and our employment opportunities.  The 99% consists primarily of working middle and lower-class families who want the America we were raised on, that idealistic democratic model in which our interests are represented.   Perhaps that is a pipe dream, in which case our indoctrination was a huge mistake.

ArtPrize 2011 Revisited

With over 1,500 pieces, ArtPrize 2011 lured me in for another look.  This time I took my husband who is quite evolved for a Michigan outdoorsman, although not appreciative of the more abstract art forms, the pieces that you cannot exactly say what it is because it is something different to each viewer.  So I plied him with a tasty lunch and a microbrew before we looked and then topped off our outing with one for the road at an Irish pub in Downtown Grand Rapids.  Included in this post are a few more photos of some of the pieces we admired.

Now that the top ten have been chosen by voters throughout the community the art critics are complaining about some of the “amateurish” pieces and the entire voting process.  How could common folk who have not been formally trained possibly know which are the best pieces?  ArtPrize  is advertised as a social experiment designed to promote connections between artists and the community (common folk) and inspire creative conversations.  What I observed was families with children and classes of schoolchildren viewing the art downtown.  Many of the people dressed in jeans and t-shirts and the price to get in to view the art was zilch.  ArtPrize made art accessible, which is what most deserves an award.  Kudos to Rick DeVos, the founder of ArtPrize, for his response to the critics’ assertion that ArtPrize lacks credibility in the art community, “I just want to see crazy crap all over Grand Rapids, and I think we’ve achieved that,” DeVos said. “The goal is not to find better art through voting. It’s not better art through democracy.  The prize and the voting are really just mechanisms. It comes back to building a creative culture in West Michigan.”

My Interpretation of ArtPrize 2011

ArtPrize is an annual arts festival and social experiment showcasing 1,582 artists in Grand Rapids, Michigan.  The monetary awards are the largest in the world and the competition is decided solely on the general public’s electronic vote.  The goal is for the community to explore new ideas and form relationships with the artists.  I often think that the DeVos family just has too much damn money, yet am grateful for their philanthropy in my home, which is considered one of the most depressed states in the country.

I developed a taste for art in my 20’s.  In my 30’s I began to step out of my impressionist comfort zone.  In my 40’s I seek to find the vision of the artist, to understand the intended meaning of the work and incorporate it with my interpretation of a piece or performance.  With this approach I have discovered the emotional facet of art, finding joy and haunting sadness in unexpected pieces that I was previously unready for.  Including a friend in artistic excursions, I am gifted with a contrasting view that leaves me appreciative of what I gain from being open to other’s visions.  Besides, I always laugh in the company of dear friends and there is no greater joy than that.