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More than 100 artists will compete for $8,000 in cash prizes in the 2nd annual Great Northern Art Explosion, a public and juried art competition sponsored by AuSable Artisan Village in partnership with Kirtland Community College and the Grayling Promotional Association.
The show opens to public voting on Friday, September 4, at 10 a.m., and for the next two weeks, the art submissions will be displayed in two venues in downtown Grayling – the AAV gallery (also the Art Explosion hub) and across Michigan Avenue at the River Valley Building (formerly Old Gambles Corner). Multiple artworks will also be displayed on the sidewalks in town.
The 2020 Art Explosion committee, chaired by Grayling artist and designer Anthony Neal, accepted entries from local, regional, national and international artists whose works cover a variety of art and styles, including painting, photography, 3D design, sculpture and digital media.
“Yes, because I forgot to tell Anthony that this was a Michigan-only show, it has turned into an international exposition with entries from Nigeria, Colorado, Florida, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Massachusetts, Nevada, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Washington and Michigan,” confessed AAV director Terry Dickinson.
“Grayling is not necessarily the place you would expect for a public fine art exhibition with $8,000 in prizes,” said Neal. “However, Artisan Village has been persistent in bringing art and creative experiences to Crawford County for ten years now. In 2019 we had a $1,500 grand prize. This year we wanted to bump that up to something significant to draw more interest from artists outside the community; it seems to have worked.”
“Part of the attraction for the 2020 show is the increase in awards from $5,000 last year to $8,000 this year,” agreed Dickinson. “The $5,000 People’s Choice Award is sponsored by Kirtland Community College. Kirtland was very open to partnering with us and very generous with their sponsorship, especially in the midst of the current hardships.”
The three juried awards at $1,000 each are sponsored by the Grayling Promotional Association.
“A show of this reach and quality could not happen without the support of these key sponsors,” said Dickinson.
Juror Jef Bourgeau, a Detroit artist, will select the recipients of the three $1,000 prizes. Bourgeau pioneered digital paintings on canvas using scanners and digital inkjet technology and has exhibited extensively in galleries and museums across Europe, Asia and the United States.
“Bourgeau is also the founder of the Museum of New Art, a project originally intended to keep aspiring native Detroit contemporary artists in their hometown,” said Neal. “The MONA has exhibited over 100 artists, often side by side with international artists. An art friend of mine introduced me to Jef when I said we were looking for a juror, and after a look at his track record and a conversation with him, I thought he would be a great fit for the juror position.”
The public is invited to visit and vote for their favorite artworks to determine one artist who will take home the grand prize. Neal has developed a process by which people can use text messages to cast their votes for the People’s Choice Award.
The process is simple: Visitors will complete a short registration form on the Art Explosion website, which will give them access to the Art Explosion phone number. Every artist will have a vote code, so the audience can text their favorite artists’ codes to the Art Explosion phone number. People can cast their votes for as many pieces as they’d like, but they can vote only once for any single artwork.
Public voting ends at 5 p.m. on Saturday, September 19, with an outdoor awards ceremony on Sunday, September 20, at 3:00 p.m. at the Container Yard, located at 117 East Michigan Avenue in downtown Grayling.
“By using the Container Yard, we can host the awards ceremony outdoors to reduce the risk of spreading COVID-19,” said Dickinson. “We plan to have music, food and drinks available for this event and are in the process of securing the proper permits.”
“Many have concerns about the health risks of public places,” continued Dickinson, “and Artisan Village has been vigilant in upholding the governor’s order for masks in public places. The display spaces at the event will have designated paths to allow viewers to flow in one direction.”
For those who to prefer to stay at home, there will be an online catalogue of the entries on the Art Explosion website although it’s not necessarily designed to be a replacement for the physical show.
“Only people who attend the show in person can vote, and we want people to vote,” said Dickinson. “We want people to visit Grayling to discover the arts and the creativity here. We want people involved in art, and that’s why we have the public vote.”