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  • Writer's pictureAmy Sherman

Consumers Energy SmartArt highlights our bright future

Updated: Oct 10, 2023

This week we turned our focus to ArtPrize, the annual international art competition and cultural event that is held in Grand Rapids in the fall. We’ve got the scoop on all that is new and different this year, plus some of the incredible community partnerships like Consumers Energy SmartArt, that make ArtPrize a truly unique experience. SmartArt, a collaboration among the City of Grand Rapids, Downtown Grand Rapids, Inc. (DGRI), and Kendall College of Art and Design of Ferris State University (KCAD), celebrates its 10th year of being a part of ArtPrize this year.

"The Veil" is one of the entries for this year's Consumers Energy SmartArt competition. The artist said in their personal statement that "the climate crisis is arguably the most pressing problem in the world today" and that "my passion is to change that."

Our friends at Consumers Energy joined us to share the story of SmartArt. This special part of ArtPrize partners CE with Grand Rapids Public School high school-aged students in a unique way. Students have the opportunity to create an individual, unique piece of art that brings new ideas about sustainable energy to the forefront and into the discussion.

Joshua Paciorek, West Michigan Media Relations Specialist and Spokesman for Consumers Energy joins us to share all the details. "SmartArt is a competition that Consumers Energy hosts along with our partners at ArtPrize and Grand Rapids Public Schools," Paciorek said. " It encourages Grand Rapids Public Schools students to learn more about clean energy initiatives, why protecting our planet is so important, and how they can get involved with the clean energy transformation at a young age. They take what they learn, and they come up with these SmartArt pieces."

Paciorek explained that SmartArt stands for "Students Making Art with a Renewable Theme." "What they come up with year after year is just incredible, extraordinary," he said. "These students are impressive."

Impressive indeed. Students art work this year focused on a variety of issues, from climate change, to motorized transportation, healing the earth, whales, hyenas (WHAT!!!), the Huichol people, using technology to harness the power of the sun, the United States military budget, pollution, and even turtles.

I'm telling you what, seeing these pieces and reading the corresponding artists'

statements about their work will give you a small nugget of hope for our energy futures. These kids are beyond impressive, they are downright visionary.

"These are our future leaders," Paciorek said.

“Connected” tells the story of pollution and how it is destroying the planet, and us in the process.

The public was invited to vote on their favorite entries through September 13. On Sunday, September 17, Consumers Energy will reveal the top ten high school students' art entries, as well as the winner of the SmartArt scholarship at an event that the whole community is invited to at Studio Park. Following themes of renewable energy, energy efficiency, and sustainability, you can see the student’s art on display at 40 Monroe Center St NW #105, Grand Rapids, MI 49503 through October 1.

Get more information on the SmartArt Celebration here:

To really go “behind the mitten” on SmartArt, we also talked with Dan Van Till, Coordinator of Fine Art at Grand Rapids Public Schools. We learn why this art competition that incorporates sustainability into its very design, is both necessary and an incredible opportunity for the right art student. He shares what he loves about not just the competition, but also about the celebration that happens on September 17. Seeing families and friends come together in such a public way to honor their kids has been an incredible part of the ArtPrize experience for Van Till.

While ArtPrize has been around for 14 years now, new to the ArtPrize scene is their executive director, Catlin Whitington, who just joined the team in March, and moved to GR from Austin, Texas. Not only do we hear about what exactly is happening with ArtPrize this year, but we also ask just what has captured Whitington’s big Texas heart in West Michigan.

We round out the show with more details on exactly how ArtPrize will work this year, from artist venues, to how to vote throughout the two weeks. Catlin Whitington joins us again with everything you want to know about how it all works, and how you can make the most of your visit to Grand Rapids for this fun event.

Consumers Energy is proud to be a part of the clean energy revolution in Michigan said Paciorek, both on the ground and on future leaders minds and canvases. "The fact that they're taking on these issues at such a young age, it's a really, really exciting event."

Follow John and Amy:

Instagram at @BehindTheMitten

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