Local art Commentators, Bloggers and observant Tweeters are attributing sagging attendance numbers at this year’s ArtPrize and ArtWalk competitions to the roaring success of ArtCruise, the world’s first drive-thru art competition. ArtCruise, which began last Saturday and runs through October 19, is already creating traffic jams on many local roads. The latest entrant in a wave of competitions turning Art into a mass popularity contest, ArtCruise winners will also be determined by public voting, but the new competition’s chief advantage over ArtPrize and ArtWalk is that West Michigan residents can see all 427 entries without ever having to leave their vehicles; an approach which appears to have struck a chord with the public. While fewer than fifty people showed up to view downtown Grand Haven’s ArtWalk Parade of Bikes on Saturday, thousands of vehicles each day are jamming US-31 in Grand Haven to view the 12-foot-tall “Morphic Resonator” (featured in accompanying photo) by local artist Mike Bryant, whose Artist Statement describes the piece as “an inverted reflection of the negative space between positive thoughts”.
Despite its immediate popularity, ArtCruise is not without critics. A Sunday editorial in The Grand Rapids Press called ArtCruise “a shameless appeal to the lowest common denominator, and a cynical pandering to folks who prefer sitting to standing or walking…” On 28th Street in Grand Rapids, a 25-foot-tall human head comprised of over 500 mirrors has been blamed for causing several traffic accidents, and the City of Holland’s City Council will vote tomorrow on a resolution to opt out of next year’s ArtCruise Competition after a road rage incident on Quincy Street turned into an open brawl between motorists who abandoned their cars to argue the merits and existential meaning of “Sweet Salvation”, a giant cross made entirely of Rice Krispie treats.
ArtCruise Director and co-founder Abner Kravitz is undaunted by the controversy, and unapologetic in responding to critics. “What’s wrong with pandering?”, asks Kravitz. “Pandering is just a snobby word for giving people what they want, and that’s the American way! Intellectual elitists may complain about ‘uneducated opinions’, but people shouldn’t have to know anything about art in order to pick the winners in ArtPrize or ArtWalk, and why should they have to make any physical effort, either? Obviously, people would rather drive through McDonald’s or Burger King than than be forced to park and walk all the way in and out. ArtCruise just makes viewing and voting for Art as easy as getting a cheeseburger.”
Although senior organizers from ArtPrize and ArtWalk declined to comment officially for this article, and publicly shrug off the competitive impact of ArtCruise, several off-the-record comments indicate that both organizations are very alarmed by the early success of ArtCruise. One anonymous source provided The Grand River Times with an internal ArtPrize email which outlines a possible plan for next year’s event, including the addition of hundreds of electric carts being made available for people who are deterred from participating by the amount of walking and standing involved.
ArtCruise runs until Sunday, October 19, when a two-hour Awards Ceremony will be broadcast live at 9:00pm by WZZM13 from Fifth Third Ballpark in Grand Rapids. Maps and GPS coordinates for the competition’s 427 entries are available from the ArtCruise website, with iOS and Android Apps available for phones and tablets.