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Part Social Innovation, Part Festival, Part Stimulus

Michigan may be the epicenter of the recession, but new forms of investment in the arts are on their way up.  In Grand Rapids, a philanthropist and social entrepreneur, Rick DeVos, invented an event called Arts Prize, in which he commandeered every available space throughout the city, sent out an international invitation to visual artists, and offered them free display space and the chance to compete for a range of cash prizes.  Citizens and visitors alike were urged to tour the venues and vote for their favorite works via text messaging. Courtesy of Arts Prize, a post industrial city has become the world’s largest, and perhaps most democratic, art gallery.  For centuries, arts and culture — at least in their formal, institutionalized versions — have been the preserve of the wealthy and the educated.  But now we live with a spectrum of phenomena stretching from American Idol to Arts Prize to Poetry Ark, all of which radically democratize the arts.  As never before, we have a chance to ask:

- What happens to museums when malls and old factories become galleries?

- If text messaging can fuel grassroots democratic actions, what could it do for the arts?

- Are there aspects of the arts that we should think twice about democratizing?



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