Published: Sept. 22, 2010

Art and Art History Department curates ArtPrize exhibit

Contact(s): Kristen Parker Media Communications office: (517) 353-8942 cell: (517) 980-0709, Michelle Word Art and Art History office: (517) 432-3961, Lynn Afendoulis Universal Forest Products Inc. office: (616) 365-1502

EAST LANSING, Mich. -- Tucked inside Grand Rapids' oldest railroad bridge is a wooden railroad car made by local workers, with components and lumber from a Grand Rapids-based manufacturing company, for the social experiment ArtPrize.

Thanks to curatorial work by Michigan State University's Department of Art and Art History, the pedestrian walkway in the heart of downtown, known as the Blue Bridge, will captivate passersby with a bit of industrial history. The piece, "Reconstructed, " was created by MSU master of fine arts graduate Ben Clore, one of more than 1,700 artists who will compete in ArtPrize Sept. 22-Oct. 10.

ArtPrize is a Grand Rapids-based artist event that engages the public and awards nearly $500,000 to prize winners. Starting at 6 p.m. Sept. 22, the public will view and have the opportunity to vote for their favorite artists; the artist with the most votes takes the $250,000 first prize.

"The department's curatorial selection reflects MSU's commitment to community engagement and situating art as part of the public conversation," said Michelle Word, teaching specialist in the Art and Art History Department. "As such, we are pleased to again participate in the ArtPrize community and have selected a public work that celebrates the history, present and future of one of Michigan's most vibrant communities."

Clore's work is a tribute to the railroad industry's influence on Grand Rapids. He will meet with second-graders of Sibley Elementary School, in Grand Rapids, to talk with them about the project, after which the students will experience the work first-hand.

"It was important to utilize as much local industry as possible so that whatever money was spent on the project was going directly back into the community," Clore said.

Most of Clore's project was assisted by Grand Rapids-based Universal Forest Products Inc., a holding company that provides capital, management and administrative resources to subsidiaries that design, manufacture and market wood and wood-alternative products for various industries. Universal's designers engineered the structure, its facility in Granger, Ind., manufactured the components and its facility in Prairie du Chien, Wis., provided the composite decking used on the rail car's deck.

"ArtPrize is an important event that is having a tremendous impact on our community and we're pleased to play a role," said Universal CEO Michael B. Glenn. "The Blue Bridge was a perfect venue for us: As a manufacturing company with operations and customers across North America, we've relied on rail for 55 years. We also were pleased to showcase our engineering and manufacturing capabilities by assisting Ben with his project."

Clore's father and grandfather were carpenters, so woodworking is in his blood, Clore said.

"The thing I love about ArtPrize is that so many artists are actively working while the community watches," he said. "So often in a gallery you only see the final results. But here, people actually walk on the work and be part of the artwork itself."

Visit Clore's blog for more information about "Reconstructed." And visit the ArtPrize site for a schedule of events, voting hours and venue information.