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'It is so emotional': local artist inspired by COVID-19 hardships enters ArtPrize for the first time

"Throughout the pandemic, windows have both protected us and connected us," said Karen Dixon.

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — ArtPrize finally returns on Thursday, September 16, after COVID-19 canceled the tradition last year.

And for one local artist, she's making her ArtPrize debut with an emotional project stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic.

That artist is Karen Dixon from Cascade. 13 ON YOUR SIDE met her as she set up her display along Fulton Street in Downtown Grand Rapids. 

Dixon didn't have the time to make art since her college days, but as her three kids have grown older and the pandemic created time she never had before, her passion for art has been re-ignited.

And at ArtPrize, she's hoping to use her project as a way to connect with others after the unprecedented year of COVID-19.

"It's super emotional and I just feel so happy," said Karen Dixon, as she watched her display go up, "I've put my heart and soul into this project."

It's a project inspired by the phrase, "window of opportunity."

"Throughout the pandemic, windows have both protected us and connected us," Dixon said.

On display are 15 old farmhouse windows each housing a character that represents an experience felt during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Credit: Keely Lovern

"Every one of them has a story and every one of them represents a different aspect of what we've collectively gone through," Dixon explained. 

"Through all of this pain, what has been so apparent is that people need each other and we needed that connection," she added, "and windows were what connected us."

Each picture is one-of-a-kind, hand-crafted by Dixon.

This collection is also an emotional representation of the art that Karen had missed creating.

"We all experienced when life slowed down," she said, "and for the first time in a very long time I found myself with time."

"And when I returned to my art, it just gave me so much joy," she added.

At this display, visitors can also create their own "window of opportunity" on a piece of paper. Kids can also do a scavenger hunt looking for the different materials Dixon used in each portrait. 

"I'm so excited to be able to interact with the public and hear from them, because every one of us, even though it was a global experience, has our own personal experience," said Dixon. 

And although she's never entered ArtPrize before, Dixon says she just knew she had to do it. 

"It's emotional for me because it was my dream," she said, "ArtPrize is my own window of opportunity."

Starting Thursday, you can visit Karen Dixon's display on the corner of Fulton and Burton Streets in Downtown Grand Rapids, right across the street from the First United Methodist Church.

RELATED VIDEO: ArtPrize has a new voting system this year: here's what you need to know

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