09/30/2013 03:52 pm ET

One Of These Artists Will Win $200,000 At ArtPrize, And It's The Public Who Decides (PHOTOS)


The annual ArtPrize competition began as an off-the-wall idea that agitated and drew criticism from the art world, devised by an heir to a massive fortune. Now in its fifth year, it's a well-tuned event anticipated by casual art admirers, hopeful artists and even critics.

On Sunday, after 11 days of public voting, festival organizers announced the 10 most popular art pieces on display in the city of Grand Rapids, Mich. They'll now go on to a second round of public voting and compete for a share of the $360,000 in prize money, with the grand winner receiving $200,000.

(Scroll down to see the 10 finalists)

It's not only the public voting for such a large cash award that makes ArtPrize unusual, but that it's open to anyone over the age of 18. This year, more than 1,500 entries filled the city, and the competition has received 430,000 votes and counting from the public.

Last year, Adonna Khare's detailed, large-scale drawings of elephants took home the top public vote prize. The public has seemed to favor natural subject matter, which hasn't changed: this year, four finalists depict animals, with many concentrating on natural themes.

The contest has drawn its fair share of controversy, and some have deemed many of the popular entries as low-brow or pandering. Last year, ArtPrize began awarding significant juried prizes too, with a grand prize winner receiving $100,000 and five other entries receiving $20,000 each.

ArtPrize Executive Director Christian Gaines told Michigan Radio that he's happy that the competition draws a large variety of work. He said the variety is reflected in the voters, as well:

"All kinds of people voting, with all kinds of different ideas of what they think is art. And what makes them happy, what strikes a chord with them ... the public vote reflects that," Gaines told Michigan Radio. "This is the only community I can think of where the local NBC affiliate will preempt prime time television for three hours to talk about art in an intelligent way. ... And that's because there's an audience that's interested in learning about that and doing that."

Scroll through the list to see the 10 artists whose works received the most public votes. Find more info about each piece -- and vote for your favorite -- on the ArtPrize website.

  • Benjamin Gazsi
    "Earth Giant" by Benjamin Gazsi is made of natural material found in the forest and natural concrete, using wild grape vines to build the frame, as well as tree limbs, leaves, grass and moss. Watch a time-lapse video of how Gazsi creates his eco-sculptures. Location: Grand Rapids Public Museum.
  • Fraser Smith
    "Finding Beauty in Bad Things: Porcelain Vine," by Fraser Smith is a trompe l'oeil quilt carved out of wood. The piece is based on the porcelain vine, a plant Smith first saw when he attended ArtPrize last year. "Turns out they call it the 'kudzu of the north,/ since it's invasive, and can completely cover, and kill trees, and shrubs," Smith wrote. "I'm thinking of doing a series of pieces where the plant, or animal, or substance, or ... whatever, is a bane, but hides behind a visually appealing exterior, and uses that as a defense; an evolutionary tool." Location: DeVos Place Convention Center.
  • Nick Jakubiak
    "Tired Pandas" by Nick Jakubiak is made of old tires and recycled materials, far from the artist's traditional material of oil painting. His ArtPrize entry in 2012 was "Old Tired Crow," in which he used the same technique as "Tired Pandas." Location: the B.O.B.
  • Paul Baliker
    "Dancing With Mother Nature" by Paul Baliker is made of cedar wood from islands in the Gulf of Mexico. He writes, "'Dancing with Mother Nature' is environmental in subject matter, depicting both the beautiful as well as beastly. It's all a dance. It's nature!" Location: Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum.
  • Jason Gamrath
    "Botanical Exotica a Monumental Collection of the Rare Beautiful" by Jason Gamrath is an installation of hand-blown glass and steel. "The purpose of creating this series on a macro scale, is to bring to light the beauty that exists within the micro scale of nature," Gamrath writes on his website. "When I scale life forms up to be larger than a person, they can be observed with this prospective from across a room due to the overwhelming physical presence that they command. It is my hope that when people admire my large-scale renderings, they can become captivated enough to look closer at earth's creations, and appreciate nature with the same eyes that I humbly and graciously experience our natural world through." Location: Grand Rapids Art Museum.
  • Robin Protz
    "Myth-or-Logic," by Robin Protz is made of suspended bamboo pieces. Protz writes, "The Irish philosopher, John O‘Donohue, said; 'Beauty takes us by surprise, and for that gives us courage.' It is my wish that you have found beauty today, and that it did give you a thrill, a spark of new feeling, courage and energy, and a belief that the world is good and that you are a part of the goodness and beauty. Because you are." Location: Amway Grand Plaza Hotel.
  • Andy Sacksteder
    "UPlifting" by Andy Sacksteder is made of bronze and is a working fountain. "Water is the central theme and inspiration for 'UPlifting,' Sacksteder writes. "The dancers are celebrating the water that sustains and nurtures plants, animals and humans. They are IN and OF the water. My sculpture is displayed in a pond that I created, using stones that I hand picked from Lakes Superior, Michigan and Erie." Location: Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum.
  • Ann Loveless
    "Sleeping Bear Dune Lakeshore" by Ann Loveless is a quilt that spans 20 feet and depicts a panorama view of the lakeshore in four panels. According to the Art Prize description, Loveless' collage technique "incorporates traditional cotton and batik fabrics along with other fibers including linen, silk, yarns, polyester netting and angelina fiber for added texture." Location: Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum.
  • Anni Crouter
    "Polar Expressed" by Anni Crouter, made of acrylic on canvas, is three separate paintings depicting polar bears. Crouter told MLive she hoped the piece would appeal to children most of all. "I don't want the children to lose sight of the natural world around them," she said. "The children really have liked it. That makes me the happiest that they like it."Location: Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum.
  • Michael Gard
    "Taking Flight" by Michael Gard is woven with recycled aluminum wire and LED lights. The sculpture first showed up in Grand Rapids when Gard floated her around the city on a giant helium balloon. "For me, the piece is about uplifting the human spirit. Illuminated from within, she drifts above, representing our hopes, dreams, and feelings," he writes. "I weave wire by first creating a sculpture in clay, then using molds to reproduce it in wax. I then hand-weave wire stitch-by-stitch around the wax form. The wax is melted away leaving a light but rigid sculpture. This piece is by far my most ambitious, representing at least 2,000 hours of work." Location: DeVos Place Convention Center.

Check out last year's winners below:

ArtPrize 2012 Winners