ArtPrize, the world's largest public art competition, has been a Middle West supporter since its conception. We heart those folks. Soon after Michigan House first appeared in Austin, TX, they offered us the opportunity to bring it back home in the form of a hospitality site during their festival that Fall. Here was the pitch: partner again with Creative Many Michigan. Locate the House in a defunct Bank of America branch in the heart of downtown Grand Rapids. Hundreds of thousands of people descend upon the city. We're right there in the middle of it all.
It was an easy and obvious yes, but quickly we realized we'd need to answer a few challenging questions:
How does a mid-90's (somewhat soul sucking) bank branch become a "touch/taste/feel testament to a thriving Michigan" that can stand out during an event as visually dynamic as ArtPrize? And maybe more importantly - what exactly does a Michigan House that takes place in Michigan look like?
Diving into these questions filled an entire summer and opened our eyes to possibilities we hadn't considered the first time around. Whereas Austin had been about giving the SXSW audience a glimpse at the creativity and passion in our home state, now we could go further. Now we were commissioning artists to create new works and make it a singular space. Now we were deep diving with partner companies exposing industries that challenged perceptions about the kind of creativity that existed in Michigan. Now we were designing programing that reached out to a wider cross section of the community and asked questions about the kind of place we wanted to live in.
For 18 days, Michigan House// ArtPrize became a kaleidoscope of creativity and hub of activity. We tattooed shoes, we heard stories of failure, we meditated, we let Michigan musicians blow our minds, we heard powerful speakers, we learned from hyper-intelligent panel discussions, we talked, we ate, we drank, we laughed, and man oh man did we dance.
The end result was a space where people came together and relationships were formed. Artists and musicians rubbed shoulders with lawyers and financial advisors. Young and old learned of new products being made by their friends and neighbors. Well known brands connected with the community around them. And, in the hustle and bustle of ArtPrize, a place for community was formed.
So what does a Michigan House look like when it doesn't leave Michigan? It looks like home.
(All Photos by Shutter Sam Photography)