Do you know ArtPrize? It is ONLY the world’s largest art contest. This year, more than 1,500 artists are competing for $500k in cash prizes. That’s right. Five hundred thousand dollars. It’s huge.  

My photo of last year's winner, Intersections.

For 19 days every fall, ArtPrize transforms 3 square miles of downtown Grand Rapids, Michigan (GR) into a giant art gallery with more than 160 venues. Every big hotel, art museum, hometown brewery, abandoned building, and shiny bank lobby becomes a venue. I attended ArtPrize for the first time last year, and I loved it so much that I’m going again this year. I said then, and I say now, “It’s the SXSW of art!” (except there’s no free BBQ or beer). ArtPrize7 begins next week on September 23, but I’ll be there from September 30 through October 6. To prepare, I’ve been following all things ArtPrize-related on Twitter, I downloaded the ArtPrize app, and I’ve been checking out the artists and their works. I’m prioritizing, friends, because ArtPrize is FREE to attend, and you know that means there will be some lines!

There are actually some cool events before ArtPrize even begins. The Grand Rapids Art Museum opens its ArtPrize7 exhibition Nature/Nurture on September 17. That’s tomorrow! If you’re in GR you can see the exhibit before the contest even begins (a good idea because the line is always long there during ArtPrize).

Tons of new things have been added this year, too. I’m excited about the new evening programming (nearly all art venues close around dinner time), which include comedy, music, and some films with participation from the Waterfront Film Festival. It turns out I’ll miss the films, which are scheduled for Sept. 25 through 27, but I’m looking forward to digging in to the rest of the ArtPrize Tonight schedule.

I’ll write several more posts about ArtPrize in the next few weeks, but before I close this one: It’s  not too late if you want to go! If you live near enough to drive to Grand Rapids for a day visit, take a look at The Rapids’s (GR’s bus system) tips for attending ArtPrize. You can park your car at Park & Rides in various spots around town and then take a bus downtown to see the venues. Those coming from farther afield: book a flight to GRR (Gerald R. Ford International Airport) for any time between September 23 and October 11. Book a hotel in Grand Rapids. I read that hotels have sold a record number of rooms, but you can probably still find one. A number of hotels near the airport provide shuttles to and from downtown GR for the duration of ArtPrize.

So, what do you think? Are you doing ArtPrize7?