On the street with ArtPrize Why one communications grad loves Grand Rapids

On the street with ArtPrize
Beth Heinen Bell '03 in front of an ArtPrize entry that won second prize in 2011.

A big city can be intimidating. Tall buildings, narrow alleys, unfamiliar faces everywhere.

Beth Bell ’03 wants to show people that a city like Grand Rapids can be an incredibly welcoming place. That’s why she’s part of the “Street Team” for ArtPrize, an international art competition that literally takes over downtown Grand Rapids each fall.

As a Street Team member, Beth helps people navigate their way through over 1,500 pieces of art displayed on sides of buildings, on Grand Rapids’ famous “blue bridge” and yes, even in narrow alleys.

And tons of people—over 280,000 in 2011—come to Grand Rapids for ArtPrize, many of them from the city’s suburbs and surrounding locales.

Beth grew up in one of those suburbs, attending Christian school through middle and high school. She says that coming to Calvin, though relatively close to home, allowed her to become comfortable with people from different backgrounds. Her experiences in the classroom and editing Calvin’s student newspaper, Chimes, gave her the confidence to be a leader—someone who’s not afraid to speak in front of people and give others’ direction.

Now she’s literally giving people directions as they explore Grand Rapids.

“I want people to know why I love this city.”

As she serves during ArtPrize, Beth’s also hoping to learn a thing or two.

“I want to develop a greater appreciation for the city and its inner workings, and I also hope to discover parts of the city I don’t know much about—like the west side.”

ArtPrize by the numbers

A metropolitan area of 650,000 hosts 1,582 artists in 162 venues.

ArtPrize draws over 200,000 guests who cast nearly 500,000 votes for a winner who takes home $250,000 in prize money for his/her work.

All of this happens in 19 days with the help of 800+ volunteers.

VERGE: winter 2011

First-Year Experience