The Rock’n’Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland

The Rock’n’Roll Hall of Fame is probably the most well known and popular place in Cleveland for people visiting the city. A tribute to and museum for everything relating to rock’n’roll, it’s an incredibly popular place to visit for anyone who enjoys the genre of music. Growing up in Cleveland, I’ve visited the Rock’n’Roll hall of fame too many times to remember. My school would take us there every other year in elementary and middle school, and since the museum would have a new exhibit or two every month or so, I also went whenever a particular exhibit caught my eye. Having been there so many times I feel comfortable saying that while the museum does do many things right, there is at least one major flaw with it.

Before going into that though, I’ll give a brief description of it’s layout. One thing that immediately catches your eye when arriving at the Rock’n’Roll Hall of Fame is it’s shape. Much like the Louvre, the museum is a giant glass pyramid, a design choice I’ll talk about a bit more later. Inside the museum there are many permanent exhibits and 2-3 temporary ones at a time. In the basement, and the largest floor of the museum, there are movies on the history of Rock’n’Roll that you can watch, an exhibit on different cities and the music they produced, and an exhibit on the origins of rock’n’roll. Along with this are also displays of some of the museums collection of famous instruments and outfits from performers, and props from famous shows. On the museum’s first floor is a permanent Beatles exhibit, and an exhibit on contemporary rock’n’roll artists. A spiraling ramp takes you up to the second floor and the inside of this ramp contains plaques for all the hall of fame inductees. The second floor is where the temporary exhibits are usually contained. The third and final floor is where the hall of fame’s most popular attraction is. Here there are dozens of headphones attached to the wall, and at each one, you can listen to the entire collection of music by any artist that has been inducted into the Rock’n’Roll Hall of Fame. Many people have spent hours at this section of the museum.

The Rock’n’Roll Hall of Fame does many things right in my opinion. It works closely with local school districts to allow kids from all over Cleveland to come visit very cheap, it constantly has new, interesting exhibits on display, and the museum has been very beneficial to the city of Cleveland thanks to the number of visitors from elsewhere in the country that it attracts. Other things it could do better though. Those in charge of choosing who is inducted into the rock hall have been accused many times of letting personal politics influence their decisions. The yearly induction ceremony for the rock hall, an event that attracts thousands each year, is rarely held in Cleveland, often being held in other cities instead even though it would be a boon to Cleveland’s economy for it to be held in the city. The museum’s design itself is also often criticized. While definitely making it interesting to look at, the pyramid design of the museum had severely restricted the amount of floor space it has to display it’s collection. All in all though, I think the Rock’n’Roll Hall of Fame is greatly beneficial to the city of Cleveland, bringing in tourists year round, and providing an interesting, educational, and fun environment for kids in the city to visit.

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My Visit to the Charlestown Naval Yard

My visit to the Charlestown Navy Yard is one I will not soon forget. I remember walking up to the gates and being so excited to see the USS Constitution the oldest active ship in the United States Navy and the oldest active ship in the world. Perhaps the yard is mot famous for building the USS Constitution a ship that has many tales associated with her great name. She fought in the War of 1812 where she and her crew captured numerous merchant ships and fought in several major battles.

Some background on the Navy Yard, the earliest shipbuilding activity began during the Revolutionary War. The land for the Navy Yard however, was not purchased until 1800. The first ship to be built there was the USS Independence. The Yard, was mainly used for repair and not shipbuilding.

(The USS Constitution headed for port)

I arrived to the Navy Yard via cab. I had decided to visit the USS Constitution Museum earlier that day. The museum is an interactive look at what the daily life of a sailor was like during the War of 1812. It also contained some awesome information and activities about the War of 1812.I had heard the museum was very interactive and I was super excited to see how it was. One of my favorite exhibits was one where you had to “load a cannon and fire it at an enemy ship it was really fun watching the little kids do it.

The major portion of the interactive exhibit called “All Hands on Deck: A Sailor’s Life in 1812 ” was housed upstairs. The majority of this exhibit was upstairs. It began with you “meeting” with a recruiter to determine your readiness for battle. The next  step was getting your seabag full of your uniforms. The kids were able to try on the uniforms to see what they were actually like. The next step in the process, was determining how you would spend your pay. You could buy extra blankets, hard tack, or even a pair of dress shoes that would last you the entire time you were out at sea. A lot of times the  men only took along necessities and nothing more. SO having a bit of hard tack would be a real treat.

Continuing on the next stop was the sleeping quarters. I thought this was the best part. (I had been on my feet all day at this point.) They had all of the hammocks lined up just like they would have been in the bottom of the ship. I definitely took a nap here; it was super dark and calming. Then after you left that area, you headed over to learn how to hoist a sail; It was really funny watching adults do this. The arguments that happened were quite comical.

From there you reach the end of the exhibit which tells you all about what happened to real sailors on the USS Constitution. Some of the men had amazing stories. My favorite tory was one where after he was dismissed from the Navy he loved the ocean so much that he joined a group of pirates and wa subsequently arrested for his crimes. One sailor was murdered during a game of cards. I thought it was really cool to see what life after the Navy was like.

I think that the Museum was excellent. It really helped you understand the hardship that the sailors went through on a daily basis. I think that this is definitely a must see when you are in Boston either by yourself or with your family. It was a truly awesome museum. I loved the museum and how interactive it was even better than I expected!

The Subversive Museum

Many people, when they imagine a museum, will imagine something like the Field Museum in Chicago or the Louvre. In most visitors’ minds, a museum is a place of dignity and culture, which makes statements about civilization (either western or a specific nonwestern cultural group) and offers visitors some mode of experiencing or learning something through artifacts or pieces of art. Typically, there is an aspect of museums all museum-goers expect, and that is truth. We expect that a painting from the Renaissance is a genuine Renaissance painting, that the Chumash arrowheads are genuine Chumash arrowheads, and that the ancient bog mummy is really an ancient bog mummy. The museum, we expect, is a place of authenticity.

But what of places which do not quite fit with the idea of a museum as pillars of dignity and authenticity?

Recently, I read a book titled Mr. Wilson’s Cabinet of Wonder: Pronged Ants, Horned Humans, Mice on Toast, and Other Marvels of Jurassic Technology by Lawrence Weschler, the 1996 winner of the Pulitzer for non-fiction. The book discusses the Museum of Jurassic Technology, located in Culver City, Los Angeles. I was interested not only because I like museums but also because, as a Los Angeles native rather proud of her awareness of the more obscure Los Angeles points of interest, I had never even heard of the Museum of Jurassic Technology, despite it being located a mere twenty minutes from my uncle’s house.

The Museum’s Storefront

The book itself begins as a discussion on the museum and its creator, David Hildebrand Wilson. The museum was created in the style of early European cabinets of curiosities, featuring an array of strange artifacts from across the world. Weschler describes some of the museum’s exhibits: a species of African stink ant afflicted by a spore which hijacks ant’s brain and causes it to grow a horn-like growth that then explodes to release more spores to infect other ants; humans with horns; and fruit pits carved into intricate sculpture.

Carved Fruit Pit on Display

The oddest thing about the Museum of Jurassic technology is that, while it is a museum, not all of its holdings are legitimately what they portend to be, and the museum makes no distinction between those and the ones which are real and “true.” The horned ants, for one, are not a fabrication. The Deprong Mori, bats alleged by the museum’s web feature to emit x-rays rather than high-pitched clicking for echolocation, are in fact inauthentic.

The Stink Ant of the Camaroon

While Weschler’s book did a lot to educate me on the topic of this strange place, I wanted to know more. Stranded two-thousand miles away from Los Angeles in the middle of the Midwest, I could not exactly make a visit, so I turned to articles and reviews posted online and scoured the museum’s website.

As a place designed as a cabinet of curiosities, the museum seems to ignore the majority of a century’s worth of museological developments. Cabinets of curiosity were created as places full of artifacts lacking defined categorical boundaries, including archaeological finds, artwork, relics, items of natural history, geological specimens, and ethnographic pieces. These objects were frequently fakes placed in the cabinet with little scholarly intent. Today, museums love boundaries; everything has its provenience, and God forbid something fake be presented as real. The Museum of Jurassic Technology, while designed as a cabinet of curiosity, introduces itself on its website as “an educational institution dedicated to the advancement of knowledge and the public appreciation of the Lower Jurassic.” It does not define “Lower Jurassic,” which helps to clue any potential visitor into the idea that a visit to this “museum” is not going to resemble a visit to the Museum of Natural History. It makes one almost wonder why it’s considered a museum in the first place.

The Museum of Jurassic Technology is something of an experiment in presenting the authentic and the inauthentic as equally true to demonstrate an idea far larger than “Look at all these items; aren’t they interesting?” The point of the museum is best expressed by Edward Rothstein for his feature on the museum in the New York Times: “This is actually a museum about museums. It takes the forms of one—the lighting, the labels, the scholarly references—and uses them to inspire wonder not just at the objects (real or invented) but at the nature of museums themselves, the way they select items from the world and allow us to recognize them as strange and wonderful.”

The Museum of Jurassic Technology challenges the preconceived model we have of the authentic museum, but it also manages to transcend the cabinet of curiosities by speaking to a human truth. Rothstein notes in his feature a “devout homage being paid to the world and to what we make of it.” It is a celebration of the human by subverting human preconception. It’s a place meant to inspire thought and appreciation of the things humans do and how we display those things. While many of its holdings would be considered fakes, they are not fakes in the context of the Museum of Jurassic Technology; they are items made by humans and presented in a way that is surprisingly honest within the context of the point the museum is trying to make.

In the twenty-five years of the museum’s existence, the museum’s status as a whole mish-mash of subversion, oddness, and honesty has allowed it to develop something of a cult following. Museum studies students regularly make pilgrimages to it. I myself, as a Los Angeles native, am planning to make my own pilgrimage when I return home for winter break, and I’m excited to see this place I’ve read so much about in person.

Audience Participation and the Grateful Dead Archive

The Grateful Dead Archive at the University of California – Santa Cruz (UCSC) documents the music, history, and social movement associated with one of the most influential rock bands in American history, The Grateful Dead. Members of the band gifted their archive to UCSC in 2008. The gift included an array of artifacts including audio and video recordings, business papers, contracts, artwork, stage backdrops, instruments, recording equipment, photographs, posters, tickets, lyric drafts, and fan art. In addition to the original bequest, new collections have been added to augment the archive. The Herb Greene Photography Collection, The Theresa Garcia Collection of the Jerry Garcia Memorial, The Dennis McNally Papers, The Dick Latvala Collection, and The Michael “Mikel” Linah Collection are all housed within the Grateful Dead Archive in UCSC’s McHenry Library.

GD3

Songs of Our Own exhibit poster by Gary Houston Source: http://guides.library.ucsc.edu/dead-archive-songs-exhibit

Artifacts from the permanent collection can be seen on exhibit in the Dead Central gallery in UCSC’sMcHenry Library. The current exhibit, “Songs of Our Own: The Art of the Grateful Dead Phenomenon,” features art by band members and fans spanning the band’s more than three decade long career. Access to special collections is also approved for researchers interested in the 60s, the counterculture movement, the Dead’s influence on contemporary music, and many other facets of the Grateful Dead phenomenon.

Arguably, the most influential aspect of the Grateful Dead Archive is its incredibly well developed online database. The Grateful Dead Archive Online (GDAO) features digitized artifacts from the Grateful Dead Archive’s permanent collection. More importantly, the GDAO collections have been augmented by the most devoted fans in contemporary music history, the Deadheads. The site’s homepage calls out for visitors to add their own contributions to the archive, “Help build GDAO: a socially-constructed archive. Please share your digital files or tell your Grateful Dead story.” The site simply, yet ingeniously, builds upon the incredibly participatory nature of the Grateful Dead and its fans. Thousands of fan recordings of live shows were uploaded through GDAO and their partnership with Internet Archive. GDAO also features digitized fan mail, fan art, and ticket request envelopes.

GD4GD5Ticket request envelope – Fan art by Eimon
Source: http://www.gdao.org/fan-art

The beauty of the Grateful Dead Archive Online is that it does not attempt to create audience participation where there is no interest. Rather, they build upon and redirect fans’ already existing desires to participate. Audience participation in building this innovative archive does not feel artificial in any way. By making the collections accessible to the general public and encouraging fans to add their own content, already engaged fans are given new opportunities to interact with the band and its community. It is clear that the creators of the archive know their audience well – Deadheads want to share their photographs, art, stories, and memories, and the GDAO is simply another platform through which this exchange is able to occur.

Despite the many strengths of the online archive, there are a few areas that could be improved. The “Milestones” tab contains a scrolling linear timeline highlighting the additions and losses of band members, album releases, noteworthy shows, tour maps, and other important events in the band’s history. The milestones timeline could be improved by adding historical events about San Francisco, Haight-Ashbury, or the cultural movements in the 60s and 70s. Adding events related to these areas could place the band’s music in the wider context of the Grateful Dead phenomenon that the archive is attempting to document. The milestones timeline could also be improved by adding multimedia functions to the events, such as photographs, posters, and audio recordings. I would also like to see the archive implement a second timeline featuring stories, memories, and photographs added by the public.

Additionally, there is a “Dead News” tab with blog posts by Grateful Dead Archivist, Nicholas Meriwether. The blog posts are interesting, well-written, and place artifacts from the archives in a broader context. Unfortunately, the blog is not updated regularly. The last post was published January 15, 2014. Perhaps if visiting scholars and students at UCSC were asked to make contributions to the Dead News blog, the posts could be updated more frequently.

Overall, the Grateful Dead Archive is a fantastic example of how to build upon existing interest in a topic and garner audience participation. As with any museum project, there is always room for improvement. I am excited to explore the Grateful Dead Archive Online as it continues to grow, and hope to some day visit the Grateful Dead Archive and Dead Central exhibit space at UC-Santa Cruz.

Anachronistic Anthropology Museums – A Disservice to the Public and to Anthropology

This week we have been reading about and talking about Anthropology museums, ethnographic and archaeological collections, and the key issues of representation that surround anthropological exhibits.

Kenneth Hudson (1991) wrote a chapter entitled “How Misleading Does an Ethnographical Museum Have to Be?” (in Exhibiting Cultures: The Poetics and Politics of Museum Display, ed. by Karp and Levine), in which he criticizes ethnographic museums and exhibits for being superficial, unrealistic, outdated, and representing generalizations, rather than specifics.

Because it is important not to make generalizations, I think it’s worth mentioning that museums are not all equally guilty of these crimes of misrepresentation.  One good counter example is MOA‘s exhibit Without Masks: Contemporary Afro-Cuban Art. Also, recently, The Pitt Rivers Museum at Oxford hosted a conference in 2013 on the Future of Ethnographic Museums.  I wish I could say I have found or seen more examples, but its tough (at least in the US, where I’m most familiar with the museum landscape).

He levels one particularly poignant critique about anachronism:

“Nobody in their right mind believes that modern Italians behave like Romans in the time of Caesar or Cicero, but a great many people have the impression, if not the conviction, that the habits and customs of people in, say, Ghana today are very similar in many respects to what one would have found in the same area a hundred years ago. They are encouraged to hold this view by what they see in museums, where the collections and displays are overwhelmingly of the shield, spear, boomerang and war-canoe type” (Hudson 1991, 459).

He closes with this:

“In today’s world, to emphasize “traditional culture” is not, in my view, a particularly responsible or constructive thing to do, however attractive it may be from the point of view of showmanship” (Hudson 1991, 460).

Hudson’s eloquent critiques on the importance of showing contemporary cultures as contemporary is probably one of the most important criticisms of anthropological and ethnographic museums in the contemporary moment.

These critiques are much like those that have been leveled at the field of anthropology broadly speaking, and especially in the written representations of ethnography for quite some time.  Many critics, including anthropologists, have fore-fronted issues of, to list a few,  exoticization, the residual baggage of colonial-period racism, failure to recognize or identify the ethnographer as a subjective person, excessive attention to the “traditional”, rather than contemporary life, etc.

And, to give credit to the many anthropologists I know, most of the anthropological research that is done today, and most of the ethnographic texts that are written (and have been since the 1980’s or so) have done much to rectify the failures and mis-representations of the past.

So why is it that while anthropologists are out there studying contemporary life in America, Canada, Mexico, Ghana, India, China, Germany and so on, and writing ethnographies that give richness and texture to the lives of contemporary people, and sometimes even write and talk about objects, artifacts, art and material culture, yet anthropological museums remain anachronistic in relation to the broader field?

Those anthropological museums that are doing a pretty terrible job of representing what anthropology is doing right now, are doing a disservice not just to the public, but also a disservice to the field of anthropology.

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  • Reo Fortune, photographer. Margaret Mead on a canoe with Manus children, 1928. Gelatin silver print, Manuscript Division, Library of Congress (107)

The old anthropology itself belongs in a museum. Someday I would like to see a series of dioramas of famous and influential anthropologists of the past – a scene with wax figures of polynesian people dancing, while a wax Margaret Mead stands by, with a notebook, jotting down her observations. There could be another similar diorama with Malinowski, maybe in a Trobriand garden. We might instead make dioramas of the verandah, the anthropologist seated on a wicker chair, making notes and drinking iced tea, while “natives” sit around his feet.  Anthropology has contributed valuable knowledge, but it has an uncomfortable and problematic history.  In shying away from any explicit discussion of this history, and instead displaying the artifacts of various traditional cultures, each within their place, in a “Hall of African Peoples” or “Hall of Asian Peoples” we lose ourselves, and fail to show the significance of more recent work.

In a time when colleges and universities have begun to question the value of their departments, and those departments right to a continued existence, every discipline is scrambling to show what value they bring, and what important ideas they have to offer.  But many more people will see an anthropological or ethnographic museum exhibit than may ever sit in a classroom taking an anthropology course.  We owe it to ourselves, if we value the work we do in understanding contemporary life and culture, to show the world that work, to show the world the field of anthropology as it has grown up in the 21st century. Because museums are so powerful in their ability to make ideas real and tangible, to educate and inform the public of all ages, we could accomplish so much, if only we used museums to show the valuable insights anthropology has to offer.

Postscript:

Solutions are not easy to find. Museums are in a pickle when it comes to being collections-based. Most collections are by their very nature dated. As a curator, you may well be stuck with a stock pile of boomerangs, drums, shields and spears, and few resources to engage in new collecting.  What to do with your amassed store-rooms full of objects of “traditional culture”, if not to exhibit it?  And I’m not suggesting museums should stop exhibiting what they have, or throw it away.  But consider introducing and including materials that are easier to obtain from contemporary ethnographers: photographs, videos, sound recordings. Maybe draw videos from youtube.

The contemporary world is out there, but the challenge is to bring it inside, in a legible and meaningful way, to the museum-going audience.  A first step (and some museums are taking this first step), is to add an addendum, or like this paragraph, a postscript to existing (often permanent) exhibitions.  Logistically, this is much easier than re-making entire permanent exhibits.

In that postscript (or pre-script), update the audience: Since the time of the collection of those shields and spears, what has happened? What does contemporary life look like? Do people still use such spears or shields, and if so in what contexts? A few tidbits of modern life will serve to demonstrate that the culture and place in question are not entirely frozen.

An Exhibit on Michigan’s Porcupine Mountains State Park

Over fall break my family and I camped in the Porcupine Mountains State Park.  The park is located in Ontonagon in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.   On a rainy Friday afternoon we explored the park’s visitor’s center.  The center included a small exhibit on the parks geological and historical background as well as the animals that are prevalent in the area.  The first display you see as you walk in is a quote defining the word wilderness “…where humans are visitors who do not remain”.  To me that quote is a very good hook into the exhibit, it made me want to see what else the exhibit said.

 

escarpment trail

My picture from my hike on the Overlook Trail

 

Geological and Historical Background

After the opening panel there are smaller panels, which describe how the main geological formations of the park were formed.  This information was useful because it helped to explain the parks unique landscape.  In white letters on a black panel with a picture of a volcano the panel describes how the volcano erupted and created the main escarpment ridge and how glaciers carved out the rest of the park.  There is also a panel on the creation and importance of copper in the region.  It discusses how copper-rich lava was pressurized by Lake Superior and solidified between rock fissures.  It also gave information on the different miners the area has had in the past.  Under the panel there is a sizable rocked infused with copper as an example of what was explained.  The next section has a display case of what miners in the area would have used such as; a lantern, washbasin and mining tools along with pictures.  As well as a small diorama of a logging site.  I found the information to be interesting and it helped me appreciate my surroundings more.

 

Union River

My picture of The Union River next to my cabin

Animals

Several animals are featured in the small exhibit.  As one might guess from the name of the park, one of the exhibits was, of course, the porcupine.  Other animals presented in the exhibit include, the fisher (a large weasel), ruffed grouse, northern goshawk, wolf, coyote, and bear.  The displays for each animal had life-sized dioramas with small informational name plaques underneath.  The wolf and the bear had additional parts.  For example, each had a skull and paw print as well as a small patch of fur you could touch so you could feel what each animal’s coat would feel like.  The bear display also had a video portion.  The video is clearly old and is in need of updating.  It features research and techniques that are most definitely not used today.  Such as tracking black bears in the region.  For example, to track the bears they placed big collars around their neck.  They also showed researchers drugging and collaring bears as well as taking tooth samples, which to be honest was just gross and slightly disturbing to watch.  It was not something I think young children should watch, it is not only outdated but also, as I said, inappropriate for that age range.  Besides the video, I found the displays on the animals to be informative.  Having a life-sized representation of the animal right in front of me gave a better understanding of the featured animal.

The Park

At the end of the exhibit there is a display that discusses the activities visitors can partake in at the park during different seasons.  In spring, for example, is the best time to see wildlife.  In the winter visitors can enjoy both downhill and cross-country skiing. Summer is a good time for hiking and swimming, but be aware that is when the bugs are out and it can be miserable.  For that reason, my favorite time to camp in the park is fall when the area is bug free and full of beautiful fall colors.

Conclusion

The exhibit in the visitor’s center of the Porcupine Mountains State Park gives a nice overview of the history and wildlife of the area.  It also provides information on the park itself, which is extremely useful for any visitor.  The one complaint I have, is that it is slightly outdated with the bear video and the use of dioramas.  The research in the bear video is old, it should be updated to discuss what research is currently taking place within the park.  Also, as we discussed in class, dioramas are being phased out for newer and more accurate display methods; but overall I thoroughly enjoyed the exhibit.

A City Becomes a Museum

The art world takes over downtown Grand Rapids, Michigan each year for an International art competition called Art Prize. This is the 5th annual year and is currently going on. Artists start setting up their art in mid to late August and the voting begins September 24 and ends October 12, 2014. The city is completely transformed throughout the duration of this event. One cannot walk a block without seeing any type of art. Each year art is displayed in all mediums, painting, sculpture, performance, etc… are all represented. This year there are 1,536 entries at 174 venues each falling within three square miles of the downtown area.

The competition began in 2009 as a kind of social experiment because it is one be the first of its kind. The creator and benefactor Rick DeVos was curious to see the outcome and response this type of event would have not only on the the city but also for the artists. There are two grand prize winners. One that is voted solely by popular vote from the public and the other is decided by a jury of art experts. Each of these grand prize winners will receive $200,000. There are also 8 other artist that could win. Two per category one chosen by the public and the other the jury chooses. These other categories are two-dimensional, three-dimensional, time-based, and installation. $20,000 is awarded to those 8 that win. This makes it one of the largest art prizes in the world.  This event is for everyone. Anyone can participate whether it is through voting or being an artist venue.

In 2009, the experiment turned out be a success. Hotels were fully booked and restaurants ran out of food just in the first week. Also the venue that hosted winning piece that year had around 80,000 visitors. Overall that first year there were over 100,000 visitors and 334,219 votes cast. This event was bigger than anyone could have ever expected. The winner in 2009 was Ran Ortner with a large scale painting of ocean waves, titled Open Water No. 24. Ortner went from not being able to pay the bills to being in newspapers around the world.

Ran Ortner, Open Water No. 24

Since 2009 there have been 1.7 million public votes cast and this number is only going to keep getting larger. 2014 alone includes 1,536 entries which represent 51 countries and 42 U.S. states and territories. In 2013 alone there were over 400,000 active participants. Thus, Art Prize has been a huge success and shows signs that it will keep growing over the years to come.

To give an idea of what other kinds of pieces are displayed and the various sizes here are some more pictures. Everything imaginable can be displayed and artists are encouraged to try out new ideas. The videos at the bottom of the post give an good overview of what has been exhibited over the past couple of years and what is currently around the city.

Joachim Jensen, Steam Pig, 2010

Robin Protz, Myth or Logic, 2013

Adonna Khare, Elephants, 2012

Grand Rapids fully embraces having Art Prize take over the city. It generates a lot of business for the local museums, galleries, and restaurants. On top of that it also is great exposure for artists. The city becomes a museum itself. Outdoor spaces such as Calder plaza, the Blue Bridge, and Canal Street Park all have curators. In fact, each space has a curator and team that helps make sure the pieces are being exhibited correctly. Each venue has certain specifications that the artist must put into consideration when displaying their works. Such as in the Calder Plaza there is a permanent Alexander Calder’s La Grande Vitesse and each piece needs to work around that. Also they cannot be within 20 feet of the La Grande Vitesse. Artists must also be preventative in making sure that the environment and venue are not harmed. For example, the art pieces cannot leave behind any rust on the plaza.

The VandenBerg (Calder) Plaza

Local museums such as the Grand Rapids Public Museum, Grand Rapids Children’s Museum, and the Grand Rapids Art Museum are venues. These museums help display the art in a manner using their knowledge of exhibition display. Often the curators for other locations are owners and curators of local galleries like Richard App who owns the Richard App Gallery and is the one curating the Calder Plaza. When those putting together the Art Prize venues have experience in exhibition design especially when they are putting together the outdoor spaces it makes the city a museum. It is an interactive museum that is accessible to everyone. There is public transportation around the city and the artwork is all within walking distance of each other.

The transformation of Grand Rapids to a Museum and Art Center rolled into one is a great thing to witness and draws in people from all over the globe. Not only does it exhibit the great aspects of the city, it encourages and teaches the viewers to get involved in art and the various things that one can do with art. The message of Art Prize is simply “For 19 days, three square miles of downtown Grand Rapids, Michigan, become an open playing field where anyone can find a voice in the conversation about what art is and why it matters. Art from around the world pops up in every inch of downtown, and it’s all free and open to the public. It’s unorthodox, highly disruptive, and undeniably intriguing to the art world and the public alike”. Art Prize demonstrates this task with flying colors and each year it gets improved upon. Thus, even though it is an unconventional museum it is effective in its methods and execution. If you ever get the chance to come to Grand Rapids, Michigan during Art Prize do not pass it by because it is truly a great experience in totality.