Art Prize is one of my favorite art events that takes place in Grand Rapids, Michigan.
For 19 days in the fall, Art Prize draws artists from around the world, working in any type of medium, to compete in an independently organized international art competition.
When you visit Art Prize, you are faced with lots of incredible art to view in every direction from public parks to museums. I’m sharing tips to help you get the most out of your first Art Prize experience.
These tips are still helpful even if it’s not your first time at Art Prize, too.
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1. You Need to Plan Ahead for Art Prize
Look online and find out what events will be going on the day you visit.
- What venues do you plan on visiting?
- Who are you bringing with you?
- Do you want to dine out while you’re downtown?
That will also determine how many venues are realistic to visit.
If you have younger kids, you will want to pack snacks and drinks. It’s also a good idea to pick venues that are close to each other.
If you are attending with friends, you might want to pick venues that are also near restaurants and nightlife to hang out at after the venues close.
If you go during the week during the day, the crowds will be lighter. On the weekends, the venues located on the perimeters of town will be less populated.
It’s really helpful if you map out some of the venues that you want to see ahead of time.
2. Research Social Media for the Art Prize Pieces that You Don’t Want to Miss
Search social media with the hashtag #artprize or #artprize23 to discover which pieces are the buzz this year and where they are located.
There were several Art Prize entries that I would have missed out on seeing if I had not checked Instagram and Facebook.
3. Where to Park for Art Prize in Grand Rapids, Michigan
Grand Rapids is a very accessible city with reasonable rates for parking garages downtown.
You can also use metered parking downtown if you don’t plan on being at one location for a long time.
If you are willing to walk a little you can find free parking off of the main streets.
4. Check Venue Hours for Art Prize Prior to Arrival
Different venues can have different hours. Make sure that you give yourself enough time in your itinerary to get to venues that are on your “must-see” list.
I would suggest saving the outdoor pieces for times after the indoor venues have closed. There is still a lot of lighting that will allow you to see the pieces at night and it will help maximize what you see.
5. Stay in Downtown Grand Rapids if Possible
I have been to Art Prize as a visitor and also as a resident in previous years. I’ve also stayed at the historic Amway Grand Hotel.
This hotel is a staple in Grand Rapids and also a destination. As a guest from out of town, I really loved the central location to all of the action.
The hotel hosted entries and was also an extremely short walking distance of all of the larger venues during Art Prize.
I loved being able to explore for a few hours and then have the option to go back to my room to drop off something or to rest before going out again. If I needed an extra layer of clothing it wasn’t a big deal because the hotel was close by.
I also didn’t have to deal with any transportation issues. I walked everywhere from the hotel and didn’t have to worry about finding parking. It also helped me feel more relaxed.
When I visited Art Prize as a former resident I felt more pressure to strategize my parking, eating, and venues. As a hotel guest, I didn’t feel as pressured to have an agenda or timeline. I just went wherever my curiosity took me.
Save on Your Hotel
6. If You’re a Resident of the Grand Rapids Area, Don’t Miss Out on Art Prize!
I only lived in town for Art Prize for two years and then I had the opportunity to visit for a few other years.
I drove 5.5 hours from Cincinnati to West Michigan just to see the art and meet the artists who have gathered from all over the world. This is something truly special and unique!
One of my frustrations while living in Grand Rapids was that many residents didn’t even bother to check it out.
Don’t let tourists, crowds, and a little more traffic rob you of something that is helping put Grand Rapids on the map for arts and culture.
This is your opportunity as a resident to be an ambassador to out-of-towners to share why you love your city.
The economic impact from the world’s most attended public art event directly impacts the downtown area businesses in a positive way.
7. If You Have Limited Time to Visit Art Prize, Go to the Popular Venues.
The popular venues typically have a few pieces that will be in the top 25.
They also have multiple entries which makes it easier to see more entries at one venue if you are short on time.
Another perk is that you don’t have to pay admission for many of the venues that normally charge a fee during Art Prize.
While you’re downtown, I recommend going to the second floor of the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum and along the river nearby, the Amway Grand Hotel, Devos Place Convention Center, The B.O.B. building and parking lot, the Calder Plaza, the Blue Bridge and near Rosa Parks Circle.
You can see the full list of venues for Art Prize here.
I also recommend taking in a view of the Grand River from one of the bridges while downtown.
Some pieces are more out of the way in the Grand Rapids area at venues you have to be intentional to visit, including Frederik Meijer Gardens.
8. Enjoy a Meal While You’re Downtown
Grand Rapids offers lots of great dining choices from upscale to casual.
If you want to eat at a location that is in a more populated area, pick a less popular time to eat. If you go a little farther off the beaten path you won’t have a problem getting a table.
There are also other great restaurants a few miles away from downtown. One of our favorite areas to eat at when we lived in Grand Rapids was in Eastown. Electric Cheetah, Brewery Vivant, Yesterdog, Wolfgang’s, and The Winchester are just a few of the places that you can’t go wrong at.
Restaurants in Downtown Grand Rapids
During my previous trips to Art Prize, I’ve also eaten at a few locations closer to downtown.
- Barrio Taco
- “The Flying Dutchman” (1/2 Pound Hand-Pressed Patty graced with Sweet Dill Relish, Roasted Garlic Mayo, and Melted Gouda Cheese. LTO) at The Grand Wood Lounge.
- A burger and fabulous peanut butter and chocolate malt from Choo Choo Grill.
- Pad Thai at Bangkok Taste Cuisine
- “The Queso Jalapeno”(Hot stuffed burger with house-made spicy queso dip & pickled jalapenos) at Stella’s Lounge that was voted best burger in America by GQ magazine in 2012.
I was very happy with all of my meals. I chose to eat at the more casual price range but the food was still great and several of the restaurants offered great ambiance as well. The Grand Woods Lounge has nice outdoor seating and Stella’s was packed with a fun environment with art and arcade games.
Breweries in Downtown Grand Rapids
9. Talk to the Locals and Art Prize Volunteers
They will help steer you in the right direction as you navigate downtown and they have great meal suggestions as well.
10. You Can Make Art Prize Fun for Kids
You can make Art Prize more fun for kids by involving them in the experience.
GrKids has a great scavenger hunt that you can incorporate into your visit.
Use their scavenger hunt to make your Art Prize trip an adventure. It’s great for kids to be exposed to the arts and culture.
Art Prize is a great way to open your child’s eyes to being more imaginative and tapping into their creative side.
11. Talk to the Art Prize Artists
During Art Prize, you have an opportunity to meet people from all over the world. Take a few moments and ask the artists about their piece of art.
Many times the stories of the WHY behind their piece will inspire you and make you appreciate their work and their method even more.
12. Wear Extremely Comfortable Shoes
You will be putting in some mileage if you try to see as much as possible downtown. I know from experience that you need function over fashion sometimes and I’ve had the blisters to prove it.
13. Vote- You Can’t Complain About Who Wins if You Didn’t Bother to Vote.
I understand that public voting for art is a bit controversial because beauty is in the eye of the beholder. I think that it’s extremely hard to compare art pieces with various mediums because art is subjective.
How do you compare a piece of contemporary art to a sculpture made of wood… or a drawing on a bed sheet made with Sharpie markers?
It’s a challenge for me to pick a favorite single artist because each of the ArtPrize entries and perspectives from different artists are so unique.
Make your voice known to help support the artist who created it if there is a piece that you feel is really worthy of receiving the prize money in the top spot.
With a public vote in the ArtPrize competition, you can directly impact which artist wins the grand prize with life-changing prize money.
You can find out more about voting at Art Prize here.
14. Take Lots of Pictures and Videos During Art Prize!
Sometimes it’s easier to show it than explain it.
Help out-of-town guests by sharing your Art Prize experience by sharing your favorite entries online on social media on your Facebook page, Instagram, or TikTok.
Many of the art installations create great photo ops too.
15. Take A Closer Look
Take a few moments and read about the artist, their statement for the piece, and what medium they used.
Make sure that you also look at the piece up close for another perspective.
Many times you will notice intricate details that you may have overlooked at first glance.
Art Prize is an experience that is for a short period of time. Make the most of it and make memories.
When is Art Prize in Grand Rapids?
Art Prize is Sept 14 – Oct 01, 2023.
Art Prize takes place toward the last few weeks in September through early October.
More Information on Art Prize in Grand Rapids, Michigan
Art Prize is making a comeback after taking a few years off and I hope that you still find a way to see it for yourself.
Art Prize is definitely still road trip-worthy! You’ll also want to come back in the winter for the World of Winter Festival.
You can find out more at the ArtPrize website.