The streets of downtown Grand Rapids, Michigan, are once again filled with hundreds of people, loads of laughter, bright lights, incredible food, and 1,000+ pieces of dazzling artwork and it can only mean one thing: ArtPrize Seven is underway!
On Wednesday, September 23, 2015, the world’s largest art competition was set to open at noon for the seventh year in a row, but the competition got off to a rather rocky start due to some technical difficulties. According to Jeffrey Kaczmarczyk (2015a), “A nationwide Internet outage involving DynamoDB, a database service of Amazon Web Service, which is ArtPrize’s server, shut down ArtPrize’s website before the opening of the exhibition with 1,550 works of art in 162 locations” (para. 3).
While the actual voting part of ArtPrize was delayed for a few hours, ArtPrize itself could not be stopped. People gathered from both near and far away to witness the opening ceremony in Rosa Parks Circle where the Grand Valley State University Marching Band and Dance Company kicked off the evening. Visitors and creative directors were extremely relieved to hear that the site was back up and running at the kickoff ceremony around 6:30 p.m. that evening.
According to the ArtPrize website, this year’s winners are set to receive an estimated $500,000 in prizes but without the use of their website and mobile app for voting, it becomes much harder for the artists to gain recognition (“ArtPrize,” 2015).
With the news of the recent website crash delaying votes, the public has taken to commenting online about the negative side effects of technology. It seems as though many people have this mentality that our world is going down the drain with everything turning electronic these days, yet I think it’s really important to take a moment and appreciate all of the advantages and access we have with technology as it is what makes ArtPrize so unique.
Technology allows us to address things so much faster than we ever could have before. For instance, when the website crashed administration took to social media spreading the word about the issue and used the hashtag #AWSoutage on Twitter to keep everyone updated (Kaczmarczyk, 2015b). With technology these days, artists can also easily communicate with their audience and keep a live tally of the votes and feedback their pieces receive online. A vote count can be found on a large screen downtown, the home website, at multiple mobile voting stations, and on the mobile app. Like Kaczmarczyk said in his article (2015b), “ArtPrize is all about the art and conversations about art, but it depends on the technology to get us there” (para. 1).
While exploring the three miles of art downtown, I was amazed at the integration of technology this year. It’s crazy how far technology has come in today’s society, and it is definitely evident when looking at the entries of ArtPrize itself. The innovations of today have allowed for some of the most incredible pieces of art to be produced like digitally painted cars, 3D sculptures and structures that feature lights and movement, songs that have been produced and feature instruments of all types, giant QR codes, hashtags, and displays that
incorporate lights of every kind.
With such high risks at stake for the artists at ArtPrize, (we’re talking life changing amounts of money on the line) I can see why it is so important that the website and mobile app are working properly so that every vote is counted. I know I experienced problems with the ArtPrize app not allowing me to vote because it did not recognize my location in the city, but at the same time it was super helpful in finding certain venues and directions around town. The app also features list functions where visitors can browse and plan their experience ahead of time, interactive maps, and calendars to keep track of the latest events (Woods, 2015).
Technology is always evolving and that is why it is such a powerful tool in spreading messages about anything and everything in our society, yet there is always a chance for error. ArtPrize is unique in that it embraces all aspects of technology and continues to create movements that allow visitors to appreciate the stories being told through the way they view the art, vote on the art, and share the art.
ArtPrize. (2015). About. Participation Numbers. Retrieved from http://www.artprize.org/about
Kaczmarczyk, J. (2015a, September 23). ArtPrize 2015 gets underway, gets past morning website crash. mlive.com. Retrieved from http://www.mlive.com/#/0
Kaczmarczyk, J. (2015b, September 23). ArtPrize’s website crashes minutes before opening ArtPrize Seven. mlive.com. Retrieved from http://www.mlive.com/#/0
Woods, J. (2015, September 10). ArtPrize Releases Mobile App for Seventh Edition. ArtPrize.org. Retrieved from http://www.artprize.org/blog/artprize-releases-mobile-app-for-seventh-edition