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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.