Past Michigan 4-H’er displays painting in Grand Rapids ArtPrize

Past Michigan 4-H’er displays painting in Grand Rapids ArtPrize

Grand Rapids’ ArtPrize is not your typical art competition. For about three weeks, 3 square miles of downtown Grand Rapids becomes the backdrop for artists of all kinds to creatively express themselves. Any park, building or open space within the ArtPrize boundaries is eligible to be a venue, and any artist over the age of 18 can participate.''

This independently organized competition highlights art of many mediums—variations of 2-D, 3-D, time-based and installation entries are included.

ArtPrize features artists from all 50 states and 47 countries. People from all over the world travel to see the art displayed in this city, so the exposure and attention for the competitors is one-of-a-kind. In total, $560,000 was at stake this year for these hopefuls, which makes this event the world’s largest art competition.

The 2014 ArtPrize ran from Sept. 23 through Oct. 11. It included a 2-D oil painting titled “The Leap” by Eric Wieringa, which was displayed in The B.O.B., a well-known and popular venue in the Grand Rapids area. Eric Wieringa is an artist and art teacher at the Art Institute of Saint Louis, where he currently lives, and a former Michigan 4-H member.

“I was very fortunate to have a family that encouraged my artistic interests and involved me in 4-H early on,” Wieringa said. “I definitely think this had a large impact on my decision to pursue a career as an illustrator and fine artist.”

Wieringa’s painting displayed at ArtPrize depicts a man leaping freely into the open air with dark-colored and shadowed wolves behind him.

“‘The Leap’ is a visual metaphor about faith, meant to empower anyone who is pursuing a dream,” Wieringa said. “This image expresses my belief that, in the midst of overwhelming fear, doubt and uncertainty, great things are possible for those who leap into the light.”

Wieringa credits 4-H with much of his passion, professionalism and drive to pursue his artistic career. He believes that children possess a natural creativity that often dies off at some point during their childhood, and that Michigan 4-H offers many creative opportunities to kids and teens, which can stimulate the creative brain and encourage passion for work at a young age.

“I find that artists who form a passion for their craft early are more likely to make it as a professional. As a kid growing up in rural America, 4-H offered me an opportunity to develop that passion,” he said.

Projects and programs of all sorts are offered to young 4-H members, encouraging them to challenge themselves mentally and creatively. Wieringa was involved in raising and showing animals, club meetings, public speaking at buyers banquets and other activities that he said he believes helped him develop professionally and creatively. According to Wieringa, the resources, opportunities to get involved and creative guidance provided to the youth of 4-H helped to cultivate his creativity and professionalism. In turn, his professionalism and creativity have helped him to achieve his artistic goals and facilitate him as he strives for excellence in his career.

Youth interested in participating in Michigan 4-H are encouraged to visit 4h.msue.msu.edu for more information. There are also an assortment of opportunities for teens and adults interested in lending a hand as 4-H volunteers.