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Mia Tavonatti
Mia Tavonatti's Crucifixion, 2011, winner of the $250,000 grand prize in the Artprize competition, left, and Lynda Cole's Rain, 2011, winner of the $50,000 third prize


Oct. 7, 2011

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The winners have been announced for Amway heir Rick DeVos’ annual ArtPrize award, the Michigan-based art competition that gives a total of nearly $500,000 to 18 artists, all chosen in a public balloting that takes place in Grand Rapids, Mich. Billed as "radically open" -- the neo-con subtext of the prize is that the art world is controlled by big-city elites (which of course it is) -- "the world's largest social art experiment. . . explored the tension between the professional and the populist in an epic conversation that was its largest to date."

The professional-populist dialectic resulted in winners that had a few things in common: they were all big, emotional and displayed in the venues with the highest foot traffic (works were shown at 164 locations throughout the city). And, since voters have to actually attend the viewing, many of the winners had local connections.

Mosaic artist Mia Tavonatti, a native of Iron Mountain, Mich., who currently lives in Santa Ana, Ca., took home the munificent $250,000 top price at the awards ceremony held yesterday, Oct. 6, 2011, beating out 1,582 other applicants. The winning work was Crucifixion (2011), a well-executed but prosaic 9 x 13 ft. stained-glass mosaic of Jesus Christ on the cross, originally commissioned as an altarpiece for an Orange County church.

Second place went to Tracy Van Duinen’s 40-by-88-foot public mural, Metaphorest, painted on the side of the West Michigan Center for Arts & Technology with the participation of members from the community. The Chicago-based artist won $100,000. Third place, an award of $50,000, went to Michigan native Lynda Cole for Rain, her sculptural installation of thousands of tiny light-refracting silver squares suspended in the air.

Another 14 artists got $7,000 each and, for the first time, ArtPrize gave an “Outstanding Venue” award to SiTE:LAB for its temporary, site-specific installations.

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Tracy Van Duinen
Tracy Van Duinen, Metaphorest, 2011, winner of the $100,000 second prize in the Artprize competition