ArtPrize international art competition could be coming to Vegas

Clark County has its eyes on the prize.

The county’s Public Art Committee invited ArtPrize representatives to speak to the public Feb. 11 at the Winchester Cultural Center, 3130 McLeod Drive, to discuss the possibility of recreating ArtPrize, a Michigan-based international art competition and film festival, in the Las Vegas Valley.

“The Public Art Committee invited the minds behind ArtPrize to share with us their recipe for success, so hopefully, we can mirror that,” said Michael Ogilvie, Clark County public art cultural specialist. “That is all totally contingent upon the work that (we) do outside of this. Basically, they’re going to give us the cookie recipe, and if we want to make the cookie, we’ve got to put in the work to do it.”

Founded in 2009, the nonprofit orchestrates the 19-day event across a 3-square-mile area in downtown Grand Rapids. It prides itself on being one of the world’s largest art competitions in terms of attendees and prize money.

“In 2014, there were 103,000 people that attended the Super Bowl. That same year, 400,000 people attended ArtPrize,” Ogilvie said. “It gives me hope in humanity that there are people who value innovation, creativity and beauty.”

The competition is divided into four categories: two-dimensional, including paintings and photographs; three-dimensional, such as sculptures; installation, which is site-specific and designed to transform the perception of a space; and time-based, including film, dance and music. Winners are determined equally by public vote and an expert jury, and the $500,000 in prize money is split between two $200,000 grand-prize winners and eight $12,500 category winners, according to executive director Christian Gaines.

“We’ve created a geo-fencing technology, so in order to be able to vote in ArtPrize, you have to be there physically to participate,” he said. “If you’re an artist, you can’t just go on Facebook and say, ‘Vote for me.’ As a visitor, once you opt-in using the app within that 3-square-mile area, you can vote away. Even if you leave Grand Rapids, you can still continue to vote on stuff if you decide to later.”

In addition, the nonprofit has also created a system that operates similar to an “online dating service” to match interested artists with available venues. About 1,550 pieces of art were entered last year from 42 states and 48 countries.

“Anyone can be an artist, anyone in the district can be a venue, and anyone can vote on public art,” Gaines said. “The venues run the gamut … from bars to restaurants, auto body shops, churches, laundromats, police departments. It’s really about all-in community participation, and it can be very surprising and very unorthodox.”

Through the expansion, Las Vegas would be allowed to use ArtPrize’s branding, technology, training and general event structure but is also encouraged to meet the needs of the community.

“It’s a year-round effort that requires a lot of organization, a lot of planning and a lot of money,” Gaines said. “There’s about a $3 million year-round operating cost, which includes the $500,000 in prizes; another $220,000 in education and artist grants; $1 million to $2 million on personnel; and then all the publicity and marketing.”

More than half of the organization’s funds are collected from private and corporate sponsorships. About a quarter comes from foundations and grants, and the rest is is generated through earned income, such as merchandise sales, event registration and membership clubs, according to Jori Bennett, director of corporate sponsorship.

“One of the more surprising statistics is that a $22 million net revenue impact was created in a single year in Grand Rapids because of ArtPrize,” she said.

Clark County Commissioner Chris Giunchigliani attended the meeting and voiced concern regarding venue location.

“We have to look at venues in a different way here because we have the city of Las Vegas, Henderson and North Las Vegas,” she said. “We have components and celebrations in the art world in different venues across the valley. It’s just something to think about.”

Although there’s many unknowns, Gaines said ArtPrize should create its own personality and adapt to its region.

“It’s not just for anybody. That’d be saying, ‘Come if you want.’ It’s intentionally for everybody,” he said. “All the programs we create, we intentionally make sure they are for people across all socioeconomic and accessibility lines. It’s very important to us.”

Visit For more information, contact Ogilvie at or 702-455 8685.

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