Was I surprised? Not really. Not because my work hasn't been well received, it has been, tremendously so and beyond my wildest expectations. It was because I'd read a news article about attendance the day before that featured the traffic counts from two of the larger venues and I'd already realized that no matter how many people loved my cranes and voted for them at the Grand Central Market and Deli, it simply couldn't compete with the Ford Museum's 49,626 or the Grand Rapids Art Museum's over 50,000 visitors in the first five days of the competition.
That said? Even had I realized how much location matters, I wouldn't have changed a thing.
My piece, Tiny Cranes, is about not waiting for or only appreciating the grand, bigger is better types of things we hope for. It's about noticing the small things that we all too often overlook and take for granted. So while a larger venue may have brought more traffic and votes, my experience to date after attending every day of ArtPrize for the first week would not have been nearly the same had I been at one of the larger venues. And I have to say my experience has been nothing short of wonderful.
I'm at a very busy, very nice, family run venue that is still intimate enough that I get to sit and talk to people. Not just greet them or quickly answer a question, but really spend time with them answering their questions, sharing my stories, listening to theirs, receiving advice and suggestions from them about turning my art into my career, teaching people how to fold paper cranes, and receiving origami gifts back from the ArtPrize visitors. Just yesterday a lady gave me a kiss on the cheek for giving her a crane, another woman appreciated my work enough to offer to treat me to lunch, and the night before a little boy asked for my autograph because he loved the cranes so much. How can I not be thrilled and satisfied for the appreciation, acceptance, and confidence in my work the public has given to me?
I will continue to go each day, all day, through the 6th (until a friend arrives from out of town to visit) and interact with the public because they've made me realize that for most of them having the opportunity to see art and meet the artists is what ArtPrize is all about.
Plus I've already won in so many ways.
This year has been one of the hardest I've had in a very long time. Realizing my marriage was over, the death of our cat (his for 19 years but one of my closest companions for seven) followed by a cancer diagnosis that came from nowhere followed by the death of my dog Kitai (my best buddy and soulmate for 11 years) I'd felt like I'd lost everything in the space of three short months. At the same time I was basically homeless and living from my 4'x6' tiny travel trailer in a friend's backyard from January through June. It was at the very least what I'd call a rough start to 2014.
But then in April, after Kitai had passed away, I came to Grand Rapids to visit the city just once before entering ArtPrize.
Downtown Grand Rapids and the Grand River April 2014
While sitting in my friend Fred's house out in the country in Greenville a single Sandhill crane flew by the living room window low and slow right above the roofline. To me it was a sign that I was meant to bring my cranes to Michigan. The day we drove to the city? Three more flew over the highway on our way there.
When Fred drove me to Grand Rapids I offered to treat him to lunch anywhere he chose as a thank you because he doesn't like to drive to the city. Of all the restaurants he chose the Grand Central Market and Deli.
A week later I registered to compete in ArtPrize. Shortly after the Grand Central Market contacted me, offering to host my entry. I laughed and messaged Christina back telling her that of all the restaurants in Grand Rapids hers was the only one I'd ever dined at! She messaged back that even more serendipitous was that for two years, up until four months before I visited, they had long strands of origami cranes hanging in the front window, mementos of her own wedding. Another shopkeeper who'd seen my ArtPrize entry told her about me and suggested that the Market should host me and put cranes back in their front window again. So they did.
I basically sold, donated, gave to friends, and finally threw away almost everything I owned, put what I wanted to keep in a storage unit in January, eventually packed up, and left California in June. From June until 3 days before ArtPrize began I was working on my entry to meet the September 24th opening day deadline. Finishing three days early I was relieved both to have completed my entry and to have brought the picture that had been in my head to do this series for the past 15 years to fruition.
This is the marsh the Sandhill Cranes call from.
Since relocating to Greenville in July to complete the production and assembly of my Tiny Cranes I often awake to the sound of a single Sandhill Crane calling to its mate back in the marsh behind Fred's house. Within a couple of minutes they'll fly over his or the neighbor's house. Because of my blog posts and the comments I've posted on Facebook since my arrival a friend recently called from California and asked "You're not coming back are you?" Guess what? I'm not. I've never been happier or more content. Living in the country is where I belong. The peace and tranquility is where I can focus and be creative. I've realized that living in California I was existing. Here, I am thriving.
Living in Greenville may not be how I envisioned my life but it feels meant to be. Kind of like Under The Tuscan Sun, but in Michigan instead of Italy :) The only thing that would have made things more perfect wouldn't have been winning ArtPrize, it would be to have Kitai with me again. It's amazing how much space a pet can fill in your heart. Mine has a doggy shaped hole in it that someday will be filled when I adopt another dog from a shelter but for now the people of Michigan have welcomed me with open arms, I am grateful, happy for what I do have, and that's really all that matters.
I have to thank Fred and the Grand Central Market for making it possible for me to be a participant in ArtPrize. Had I not had Fred's house to stay at to do my production and final assembly making the cranes on the West Coast and transporting them to Michigan completed would have been a nightmare. And I couldn't have been luckier than to be hosted at the Market. They have welcomed and supported me at every turn.
If you want to see the Tiny Cranes during ArtPrize they'll be here until October 12, 2014:
Grand Central Market and Deli
57 Monroe Center ST NW
Grand Rapids, MI 49503