Local law firms continue large role in ArtPrize played over the years


legal news PHOTOS by CYNTHIA price

by Cynthia Price
Legal News

Law firms play a variety of roles in the annual ArtPrize  event which draws so many to Grand Rapids, and, though their contributions shift and change with time, have done so since the “radically open” event’s beginnings in 2009.

Varnum, which has contributed ever since then, this year sponsored AccessArt Lounge, which proactively supports access for people of all different abilities to see the wide range of works on display.

The lounge, housed at Fountain Street Church, includes American Sign Language/English interpretation, free wheelchairs, maps indicating best routes for those with limited mobility, and disability awareness training. Most innovatively, there is a quiet room where people can get away from the ArtPrize rush,  a potential trigger for those with anxiety.

Taking the effort for accessibility a step further, Varnum also held a reception the first night of ArtPrize to shine light on the work of ACTion Art, a program of Artists Creating Together (ACT), which Varnum supports.

ACT provides programs so that people with disabilities can “learn, grow, and celebrate through the arts.” ACTion Art is a competition for artists with disabilities, with winning artists entered in ArtPrize.

The winners were Wesley DeVries, Jodie Dilno and Tyler Vonitter, all three showing at Amway Grand Plaza.

DeVries painted live during the Varnum client party. He uses a credit card rather than a brush to create his wonderfully abstract, spontaneous work.

“I have SMA,” he said. “Most people have never heard of it. I had to really prepare to come to this, and I’ll be exhausted at the end. But it’s worth it.”

Spinal Muscular Atrophy, a rare progressive degenerative disease, shows up with different degrees of severity, and people at ACT celebrate the fact that DeVries is able to continue creating.

Commented ACT Executive Director Angela Steele about the well-attended event, “I’m so excited about this. We truly appreciate Varnum being a partner.”

One of the firm’s partners, Beth Skaggs, serves on the ACT?board. “We couldn't be more pleased that our sponsorship of ArtPrize this year is in support of accessibility and inclusion,” she said in a statement. “We applaud ArtPrize for acknowledging the needs of people with disabilities and providing resources to meet those needs. We are also honored to host artist Wes DeVries... to demonstrate that there are many different ways to express oneself perfectly through art."

Varnum also repeated its sponsorship of the Paul Collins Art Award, highlighting the work of artists of color, along with the City of Grand Rapids and the African American Art and Music Celebration that takes place during ArtPrize.

Law firm Warner Norcross and Judd joined its co-occupant Fifth Third Bank to serve as a venue once again. There was much to see at their building and plaza, starting with brightly painted toilets outside, in a display inviting people to “Flush IBD” and Crohn’s disease.

Many of the 56 works there were on serious themes or created in non-traditional ways, including an “art happening” mural that came alive out of a crowd.

“Curating a space where amateur and serious art lovers alike can develop a creative dialogue around thought-provoking works continues to be a great opportunity...,” said Warner Norcross managing Douglas Dozeman.

The venue hosted by Barnes and Thornburg at the corner of Monroe and Pearl has always been high-profile, and this year’s “Invasive Species” by Shiny Seed was chosen by the popular vote to rank in the top 20.

Attorneys and staff at B and T’s Grand Rapids office chose the artist during the “courtship” phase of ArtPrize, and one of their bigger client events is a reception to meet the artist.