Three of Professor of Art Barbara Bushey’s quilts­­ are currently featured at ArtPrize in Grand Rapids. Janet Jepsen  | Courtesy
Three of Professor of Art Barbara Bushey’s quilts­­ are currently featured at ArtPrize in Grand Rapids. Janet Jepsen | Courtesy

Every year, thousands of artists attempt to define art in downtown Grand Rapids, Michigan, at ArtPrize, a 19-day art show from Sept. 2  to Oct. 11.

This year Professor of Art Barbara Bushey is joining those ranks of artists by showing three of her quilts at the ArtPrize venue Processing Fiber. Last year, Lecturer of Art Doug Coon entered three prints of photographs he had taken of the caves on the Apostle Islands in Wisconsin.

In 2014, ArtPrize attracted nearly half a million people and displayed more than 1,500 pieces of art.

To gain entry into the show, artists upload images of their work online and venues pick the artists. Artists earn publicity and a chance to win one of two $200,000 grand prize and the venues, typically privately owned businesses like coffee shops or restaurants, hope to expand their customer base by showing the artwork.

Bushey and Coon drove to ArtPrize on Sept. 26 and spent the day looking at the art on display.

“There was not a single great ‘kaboom’ this year, but a lot of great smaller pieces,” Bushey said. “The experience is not like going to a museum, where, after a little while, your feet hurt, you’re tired, and though you feel like your eyeballs are going to start popping out of your head, you stay because you paid $20 to get in.”

Coon recalls downtown Grand Rapids before the phenomenon of ArtPrize — now in its seventh year — saying it’s aided the city’s growth.

“There was nothing in Grand Rapids; once 5 p.m. hit, the downtown was empty. But they’ve made such a transformation, and part of it is due to ArtPrize I think,” Coon said.

Dan Seaver, general manager of McFadden’s Restaurant & Saloon in downtown Grand Rapids, agrees with Coon that ArtPrize has changed the energy of downtown Grand Rapids. McFadden’s has been a participating venue in ArtPrize since its beginning.

“For us, ArtPrize allows people who otherwise wouldn’t step through our doors see how we would host events or just to come enjoy our night-life atmosphere,” Seaver said.

McFadden’s has nine pieces of artwork on display this year. Pieces include a pointillism portrait of Lil’ Wayne and an action-set of miniature hybrid animals in a retelling of an ancient love story.

This wide variety of art is one of the reasons why so many people return to ArtPrize every year, and observing these crowds is a favorite part of the experience for Coon and Bushey.

“Sometimes it takes all that I have to control my professorial self from yanking a person by the neck and saying, ‘Clearly, you don’t understand anything about this,’” Bushey said.

Coon and Bushey said they hope more Hillsdale students will submit art to the event in the future.

“ArtPrize is a perfect opportunity for students to show their artwork,” Coon said. “The online process to register is so easy.”

“And you don’t have to drive anywhere with your precious cargo,” Bushey added.