September 23, 2015 | Rachel Watson


For three weeks each fall, downtown Grand Rapids hosts ArtPrize, an international art competition.

In an effort to laud and support alumni ArtPrize contestants, Calvin College will give $1,500 to the winner of an alumni-chosen ArtPrize entry in the seventh annual international art competition.

Anyone who attended Calvin for one year or more may vote for their favorite Calvin alumni-created piece of artwork through Oct. 8 at midnight.

“The intent is that all Calvin alumni are eligible to vote for this, show encouragement to the artists, and encourage more alumni engagement with ArtPrize,” said Mike Van Denend, director of alumni relations at Calvin.

The art competition, which gives $500,000 in award money every year to artists in various categories, was started seven years ago by Calvin graduate Rick DeVos '04. His leadership team consists of a number of Calvin grads, including Kevin Buist '06, director of exhibitions, and Todd Herring, director of creative and communications, among others.

Reason for the award

Van Denend said the Calvin Alumni Association wanted to come up with a tangible way to recognize the work of its 30-plus alumni artists who take part in the competition each year.

“We were looking for a way to encourage our alumni artists, who are incredibly creative and excellent at what they do,” he said. “Artists rarely get the support they need or deserve, so this is our attempt to highlight them and do that.”

The association recognized its limitations in not being able to promote all 30, and didn’t want to pick and choose. So it came up with the idea of a democratic vote with prize money attached.

Funding sources

The $1,500 prize will be underwritten for three years by the Calvin Alumni Association.

“The association has designated this a “catalyst grant,” meaning the alumni board hopes that, after three years, an alum or alumni group would be willing to donate funds to continue the award beyond three years,” Van Denend said.

Lisa Van Arragon, associate professor of art and art history, who also was an assistant ArtPrize juror last year, partnered with alumni relations to create the award. She said she and Van Denend sat down at the end of last year’s ArtPrize to discuss a way to engage the competition as a college, and this is where they landed.

Encouraging creative callings

She said ArtPrize fits right in with what Calvin is all about.

“ArtPrize allows people to explore calling through creative expression, and it certainly encourages the entire community to learn more about art and to learn how meaningful art can be in a wide variety of dimensions,” she said. “I think actually, in terms of Calvin’s mission, it overlaps really effectively with those interests in lifelong learning, being responsive and observing the world around us, then being committed to the vitality of our local community.”

Van Denend agrees.

“It is consistent with our interest as an association and the college’s mission to encourage our artists to create and speak through their gifts,” he said.

Voting for the alumni award continues through midnight on Oct. 8. The winner will be announced on the Calvin Alumni Association’s website on Oct. 9 and in person at the Maroon & Gold Gala during Homecoming Weekend, Oct. 24.

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