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2020 ArtPrize Exhibition Canceled Over COVID-19 Concerns

Concerns over the difficulty of travel, low attendance, and gathering restrictions prompted the decision to cancel one of the largest public art events in the US.

Mark Dean Veca, “Pony Show,” part of SiTE:LAB’s Rumsey Street Project for ArtPrize in 2015.

ArtPrize, the organization behind the biennial art exhibition and competition in Grand Rapids, Michigan, announced today the cancelation of its 2020 event set to open in September, citing challenges posed by the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. Concerns over the difficulty of travel and both artist and visitor attendance; uncertainty over venues and gathering restrictions; and other unknowns related to safety, health, and planning prompted the decision.

“Everyone had hoped to find modifications that would enable us to host the exhibition safely. We initially shifted plans to focus on outdoor spaces and large indoor venues,” said ArtPrize board member Marc Schwartz in a statement.

“However, after analyzing the situation further and considering the unknowns, we realized that hosting such an event was not the best course forward,” he said. “Although very disappointing, we believe it is the best decision to ensure the well-being of our constituents.”

Launched in 2009, ArtPrize invites artists to display their work in makeshift venues, from museums to coffee shops to car shops, in a designated three-square-mile ArtPrize district in Grand Rapids. The show self-styles as “radically open,” though some have pointed to its problematic conservative ties. ArtPrize was founded by Rick DeVos, the son of Betsy DeVos, who is the current Secretary of Education under the Trump administration. Its first year, 2009, was bankrolled by the Dick and Betsy DeVos Family Foundation.

The festival takes place for 19 days every other fall in the Midwestern city and attracts over 500,000 visitors, making it one of the largest cultural events to succumb to the COVID-19 crisis this year. Last week, Art Basel announced the cancelation of its September flagship art fair in Basel, Switzerland. The Venice Art and Architecture Biennales, slated for 2021 and 2020 respectively, have both been pushed back by a year. 

In its statement, ArtPrize said it will refund any artist and venue registration fees already paid for the called off 2020 exhibition, and continues to evaluate possibilities for future events.

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