LANSING STATE JOURNAL -- Greater Lansing business leaders gathered this week to take a deeper look at the success of Grand Rapids' ArtPrize competition and glean lessons in economic development from the city's signature creative endeavor.
Catherine Creamer, executive director of ArtPrize, called the art event a "grand expriment and a social experiment" that has grown into a crowd-pleaser.
"ArtPrize started as a grand experiment and a social experiment," Creamer said. "It's proven to be a wilder, bigger, success than anyone had imagined," she said Thursday during an Lansing Economic Club luncheon presented by the Lansing Regional Chamber of Commerce.
The fourth annual ArtPrize brought about 322,000 visitors to Grand Rapids over the course of a 19-day, citywide event in 2011. More than 1,500 artists took part and $498,000 in prizes were awarded to artists, based on public voting.
Creamer took over as executive director of ArtPrize in March 2010 with a goal of making it self-sustaining and expanding its educational outreach.
"It's really about catalyzing community," Creamer said. "We're a technology platform that expresses itself as an event. We don't provide any content. We develop a platform and then ideas perch on it.
"I think what communities can take from that is that sometimes when you leave behind few rules and a light framework it allows for communities to get creative."
Creamer began her career as a textile artist in New York City. She has worked as a business executive, entrepreneur and educator. She focused her presentation to Lansing business leaders on how ArtPrize exemplifies that the nexus of art and business is a reliable sweet spot for economic development.
"I think any artist can do well by understanding what the needs of business are and any business can do well by being very creative," Creamer said. "Making sure that the creative voice is always there around the table while you have other decisions going on will have a richness and a success that's not predictable."
Jennifer Middlin visited ArtPrize last year and plans to take her family to explore the citywide competition again. Middlin is director of marketing and new media for Ciesa Design in Lansing's Old Town neighborhood and has been an integral organizer behind bringing to Lansing creative events such as TEDx and Ignite.
"What I like about how they do it is that it's in different parts of the community and it gets people to go from downtown central out to the Frederik Meijer Gardens," Middlin said about ArtPrize.
"It takes you through the city. I think that what that can do for things like restaurants and bars that are in between those spaces is phenomenal.
"I shopped at stores I never would have shopped at, I ate at restaurants I never would have eaten at because of ArtPrize."
Middlin said attempting a copycat ArtPrize event isn't the answer for Lansing, but believes there are lessons to be learned from its success.
"I love the idea of letting it kind of take on a life of its own and then seeing from there what works and what doesn't work," Middlin said.