Chicago Needs A Dose of Grand Rapids

I recently took a trip to Grand Rapids, MI for an ArtPrize event at the UICA.  Having lived in a city for the past several years, I was instantly charmed by the small town feel of Grand Rapids but the art scene had the vibrancy of a city twice its size.  Recently christened “the new Austin”, Grand Rapids is quickly gathering speed on the art front–particularly since the ArtPrize started in 2009.  Admittedly, few of the entries I saw there were memorable but what I took away was the sheer collective enthusiasm of the city itself.

I love Chicago but there seems to be an underlying bitterness agitated by its competition towards NYC and LA, and its struggle to keep its young artists/recent MFA grads from moving out.  One of my professors suggested Chicago needs more galleries which cater to young artists and there needs to be more connections between MFA programs and these galleries to establish relationships before these artists move away.

From what I could tell, Kendall College graduates and professors seem to run the up-and-coming art scene in Grand Rapids.  A young scene like this isn’t jaded yet, and doesn’t have the struggle of hierarchy within the gallery scene. It was refreshing to be among artists and gallerists with a sense of optimism.  Obviously Chicago, having an established place in the art market, cannot ignore its history and cannot/should not strive for a small-town up-and-coming-at-scene attitude, but I do think that a healthy dose of enthusiasm and a good night’s sleep would go a long way.

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