Fountain Street Church, ACLU extend ArtPrize to works of social meaning

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legal news PHOTOS by JUSTIN price

by Cynthia Price
Legal News

Once again, Fountain Street Church explores the boundaries of how art can comment on the need for social change in the world with its ArtPrize entries.

This year the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Western Michigan co-sponsored the rich and varied display along with the Fountain Street Church Social Action Committee, which in turn has an Art Committee. Joslin Monahan and Joe Marogil, two area attorneys  on the Advisory Board of ACLU West Michigan (Monahan is the current chair), were instrumental in setting up the program for an introductory reception and awards program held Sunday, Sept. 18, prior to ArtPrize’s Sept. 21 opening.

Each organization gave a grand prize to one of the pieces, based on the judging by two experts: Paul Wittenbraker, a former executive director of the Urban Institute for Contemporary Arts and now an art professor at Grand Valley State University; and Carol Sarosik, also at Grand Valley and a board member of the Grand Rapids Art Museum.

Monahan gave the ACLU prize to “Girl Child Soldiers,” which features symbolic representations of young girls who have been forced to fight in civil wars around the world —according to artist Sana Musasama, girls represent 30% of child soldiers. Monahan also read a statement from the jurors which called the work “immediate, emotional, and accurate,” and said it shows “ a tragedy beyond imagination.”

Tom Logan, who has chaired both the ACLU Advisory Board and, currently, the church’s Social Action Committee, presented the SAC prize to Patrick Foran’s “Defacement.” The juror’s statement said the work “orchestrates rich techniques of representation to help us think about the effects of technology on humanity.
As we increasingly engage the world through technological interfaces, is the capacity to be human being expanded or convoluted?”

Edgar Marty, long a force in the Fountain Street’s dedication to displaying art, which is not limited to ArtPrize, announced five additional special recognition winners, representing a cross section of the ideas and styles in the exhibit. They were: “Public Debt to the Suffragette” by Mary Coss, which utilizes corsets and other ethereal clothing to illustrate contradictions in the history of the woman’s movement; “Heretical History: The Cathar Massacre,”?a large and detailed circular depiction on the subject of the clash between science and religion; “Plumbum (Flint Water Crisis” by Mark Bleshenski (shown); “The Auburn Hills Project” by North Hills Middle School students led by Diane Hartig, paintings and photography on the all-races neighborhood started in 1962 by African-Americans despite opposition, of which Fountain Street’s famed Duncan Littlefair was a vocal supporter; and “Gas Masks”?by Beibei Chen and LeiLei Chen, which shows the symbolic masks of war covered with beautiful oriental patterns.

Marty commented later, “We believe art is a fundamental force for change.”