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Pub 43, located on Divison just south of Fulton, has participated in ArtPrize since its start. Located between two demographics, Hillside and the Westside, it lies at a crucial cusp of Grand Rapids. The pub is a good attractor for political and/or controversial work, according to Anna Marie Buller, who works frequently with the Avenue for the Arts and the organization of the spring event Art.Downtown.
For this years' ArtPrize the pub is a home for 22 works of art. Most of their works are lined up on their north wall. In the whole back room a dialogue is forming among the pieces that occupy it. There are expressions of recycling, being proactive, being wise, being calm and overdosing. We'll start our exploration with a tree painting by John Atlyn titled "The Last Full Moon." It's primary theme is how there are two choices and life: good or bad. It is exquisitely painted and even the paint application allows for a choice. Based on where the viewer stands the moon can appear more or less full.
The two paintings to its right are visually presenting two possible outcomes of making this choice. One is a peaceful scene of a monther and daugther playing at the beach. About her piece "Girls on Glass" Sarah Imus explains,"I walked onto the beach with my camera and just happened to see this." On this wall, finally, is a piece titled, "Overdose." It is the darker result of the choices we have. Behind the blody, wrangled figure is a mirror so we can see ourselves as part of this "bad" direction.
Nearly directly accross from "The Last Full Moon" is a tree with leaves constructed out of empty pop cans and highway tires titled "Open Doors." Hanging between chains supporting lighting structures are two paintings based on the structures in "Open Doors" pointing to the innerconnection that exists amidst us. All of the strong statements in that back room are watched by an owl that perches on the west wall of the back room that is approximately 4'x4' by artist Allicia Vincent. The owl is a traditional symbol for a watcher. Here, he is the watcher of the ideas being tossed about the room and rather than taking a side he simply watches the dialogue full of drama. As one walks from this back room to the entrance they pass the artwork of 12 other artists hanging on the wall above the diner booths.
Pub 43 says they really stick to one thing ArtPrize likes about itself: the open opportunity for any artist in the world to submit work as long as they are 18 and older. They house a diverse skill set too - from expert to novice.
"Well, we [participate in ArtPrize because] we already have art in here, we had the wall space and we're adventurous," says Sandy Malone, co-owner. Her decision to curate a few paintings by hanging them in between the chains holding up lighting fixtures definitely confirms this spirit.
Malone says the conversations change when the work in the venue changes. People talk about where they've been and what they've seen that relates to the piece. The art, she says, becomes a unifier for the people around the artwork. In this way the artist is guiding social discourse.
Co-owner Troy Stouten says he doesn't get involved much in curating the venue but is an artist himself. While talking about the origination of ArtPrize he says he finds it curious that the city had to create a separate event just for art when they also have the Festival of the Arts. Without the focus on food, he says, participants get a closer look at the actual art content.