Artists Compete for $5,000 at mnartists and Walker Art Center's ArtPrize Pitch Night

Tonight, five artists will battle it out at the Walker Art Center for a coveted $5,000 grant at ArtPrize Pitch Night 2015, hosted by mnartists. After making their proposals to the audience and a panel of five experts, who are all invited to ask the artists question, the judges will choose a winning individual or team to send to ArtPrize, a 19-day extravaganza of art that takes place across three square miles of downtown Grand Rapids, Michigan.

About three years ago, the director for ArtPrize reached out to the Walker about a new model they had been working on called 5X5 Night. The evening entailed artists proposing an idea in front of an audience with jurors making selections. 

For Pitch Night, mnartists adopted the idea specifically for creatives living in Minnesota. The project pairs well mnartists aims to expand the scope of their work beyond Minnesota. "ArtPrize is a national art event," says Jehra Patrick, mnartists' program director. "It's an exhibition opportunity, but it's also very public." 

With ArtPrize, half of the projects are funded through a professional curation process, and the other half are funded through public voting. With mnartists' Pitch Night, it's ultimately up to five jurors to select the winner. However, the audience gets to be part of the process as well, asking questions of the artists. 

"The reason to go to Pitch Night is that not only is it a way to champion these projects, but you also get to participate in a live and transparent jury process," Patrick says. Making the whole thing into an event takes "the pressure off the presenters. It's a moment to have fun," she adds. Patrick likens Pitch Night to American Idol, although over the past two years jurors have been more inquisitive and probing, as opposed to being mean. "We haven't had Simon Cowell. We have had a lot more Paulas," she says. 

Even if an artist is not selected, Pitch Night is a way for them to make connections and get exposure. In the past, creatives that were not chosen have gone on to do their projects in other places. Allison Hiltner, for example, ended up doing her proposed work at Northern Spark. 

As opposed to the last two years, where the venue for the winning project was outdoors, this year the artists will do their work in an interior venue, which allows for pieces from various disciplines. 

Among the competing artists are Carolina Borja and Amy Toscani, who are working on an  an interactive piñata installation called Constructing on Deconstructing

Liz Miller will present her proposal for 50 Bouquets, an installation of 50 over-sized, sculptural felt bouquets suspended from the ceiling (there's one for each state of the union). Carolyn Swiszcz, meanwhile, will talk about her project, Inventory Days, a series of autobiographical videos, animations, hand-made props, sculptures, photos, and work on paper. 

The competing artists also include two theater artists: Samantha Johns, who wants to create a performance and set involving hundreds of human silhouettes; and Komars Morade, whose Love Letters from the Ocean explores immigration using video projection, black-and-white TV, aquariums, and live actors. 


ArtPrize Pitch Night 2015
7 p.m. Tuesday, May 19
Walker Art Center