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Stick-to-it-ive-ness speaks to human struggle, says artist Richard Morse

Morse says the horses he constructed to go upstream in the Grand River speak to his own struggle with the results of battling cancer-and his determination to overcome those challenges.
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Richard Morse’s ArtPrize entry,“Stick-to-it-ive-ness; Unwavering Pertinacity: Perseverance,” or as most people are calling it “the horses in the river” has generated a lot of attention this year. Constructed of wood surrounding metal cores, the nine horses create a stampede struggling upriver, against the current. Richard Morse says the resistance they appear to be encountering is no accident.

“It worked into a story of my health because I survived cancer and I was trying to push myself to see what I could do,” Morse explains. “I kept doing that because after my chemo I had five years of side effects from the cancer. My strength was gone. So every time I pushed myself trying to do carpentry for artwork I’d get sick and have to stop.”

The river plays a pivotal role in the theme Morse is conveying of overcoming obstacles. Initially he wanted the horses to be actually crossing the river, but city hall vetoed the idea because the current in the middle of the river is too dangerous. Instead, the sandbar that housed Nessie in the first ArtPrize year was offered to him, which he says has worked out better than he could have imagined.

“When horses are in the water they’re afraid to walk because they don’t know what’s in the current, and what’s under the water. [When] they get their footing they start to push and move forward, and [the piece becomes] kind of a cool story of struggle and survival,” says Morse.

It’s Morse’s hope that his determination to overcome the challenges he encountered and his success in the creation of this piece can inspire others who come to encounter hardship. He says viewers have approached him as he has stood by the piece and shared stories of their
own struggles with cancer. That said, Morse has also said the piece isn’t limited to overcoming cancer, but any challenge someone might face.

“I’m trying to send a message,” Morse says. “You know, if you have a passion and you stick to it... I stand back and I’m shocked by this whole thing. I’m shocked and overwhelmed. I pushed and pushed my limits until I was exhausted.”

Morse says when the idea of participating in ArtPrize was first presented to him and at a Home and Garden show he brushed off the idea, saying he could never participate in so large a competition. Now as a participant, Morse says his experience with ArtPrize has been very rewarding, and that he has particularly enjoyed meeting other artists.

“The other artists who are in it for the passion are incredible,” he says. “I love it. I never knew  a contest could be this friendly.”

Morse mentioned that a lot of people have told him they wish the horses could stay in the river year-round. Though the piece actually wouldn’t survive the winter, Morse thinks it’s a request that should be given consideration by the city.

“Most of the public wants something in the river every year now, and they love it,” Morse says. “I think the mayor should think about [the fact that] people want something in the river. Something should be done... and I could do it.”

“Stick-to-it-ive-ness; Unwavering pertinacity: Perseverance” is in the Top Ten pieces determined by the public vote and can be found on the sandbar in the river right next to the Grand Rapids Public Museum. Winners of the public and juried votes will be announced on the night of Friday, Oct 5.

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