GRAND RAPIDS (WZZM) -- ArtPrize 2012 officially kicked off Wednesday and for the next 18 days, thousands of people will descend downtown to check out more than 1,500 entries.
The first round of voting opens September 19 and participants have to be 16 or older to vote. However, many smaller children will certainly have their own favorites at ArtPrize.
"My kids are super excited about," said Melody VanderWeide, owner and founder of GRkids.com.
The mother of three children under the age of 9, VanderWeide knows there are a lot of things to consider when taking the family to see ArtPrize which covers three square miles. Things like the best and most kid-friendly places to go how to get around are all considerations. To make it easier on herself and other parents she came up with the GRkids.com Kids Tour to help families get the most out of the experience.
"Parents love ArtPrize but it is really overwhelming with over 1,500 exhibits, it is really difficult to decide where are we going to spend our time," VanderWeide said. "So we decided to cull through all the exhibits and pick out the ones we thought would be the best bet for families. To make it even easier we plotted those on a map. We connected them with a route and gave them numbered stops and laid it all out for parents to follow."
The first stop is the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum. VanderWeide says the Ford Museum is a great place to start because it provides parking options nearby and has some interesting exhibits.
"Of course we have the big T-Rex around the corner there are penguins in the fountain. I don't know if you were here last year when they had bears in the fountain. It is always like what are they going to put in the fountain. The penguins are awesome over there, life sized penguins," she said. "Then there is a sculpture of some puppies. They are multi-colored and the kids were already behind them this morning wanting to get their picture taken."
VanderWeide selected 21 venues to put on the tour and she says they all have a few things in common.
"Size. Generally we think the kids just love big stuff. Of course there are little things on there too but when they see the big T-Rex it is just gigantic in their little minds. That is really cool. there are a number of pieces like Norm the Dragon that we are going to take our kids too," she said. "A lot of sculptures. There are paintings included as well, but the 3D art is really relatable for the kids."
Even with the the tour numbered and mapped out for parents to follow in order if they like, the likelihood of fitting everything in on one day is unlikely. So, VanderWeide made it a point to pack the tour with venues that have multiple pieces of art on display.
"We really tried to keep the venues close together on our tour so that you wouldn't have a ton of walking space in between," said VanderWeide.
She says some of the likely favorites will be the large Chopper outside the Grand Rapids Public Museum... and the colorful Spores outside DeVos Place.
"They are large and they have big metal protrusions coming out. They are unlike some of the other art we've looked at. They have kind of a surreal imagination piece to them where you look at them and think. I don't know is it outer space. Is it science. What is this?" she said.
And since children are more likely to get bored if not kept adequately stimulated, she says choosing pieces that are different from the others is key.
"That is one of the big joys of taking my kids to ArtPrize, around every corner is something different. It's like Christmas morning. 'Oh my look at the surprise. Look at that, that is amazing and wow,'" she said. "So ArtPrize naturally does that and we've included a bit of everything like that on our tour."
And to help keep families engaged in the experience she created a scavenger hunt to make it more interactive.
"You can download a scavenger hunt, give your kids a clip board and they can go around and find things that make them laugh, or make them smile, or that are bigger than them or shiny," she said. "All these different things just to get them engaged and thinking about art from a different way than they are naturally inclined."
For a complete list of the tour, which can be downloaded, visit GRkids.com. VanderWeide also offers information and advice on parking and which entries are not child friendly.