Courier August/September Courier - Page 21

What are the origins of the ArtPrize Pitch Night events? Christian Gaines: It’s necessary to cre- ate a foundation of understanding that Experience Grand Rapids and ArtPrize work very closely together on lots of things at lots of levels, and Pitch Night is just one of those. As organizations, we work hand-in-hand, which is very much in the spirit of the collaborative approach that people in Grand Rapids have. ArtPrize Pitch Night is five years old now, and it’s really ramped up in the last year or two. It is an idea that captures the entrepreneurial approach that is in keep- ing with Grand Rapids in a lot of ways. We wanted to create a program that wasn’t only an informational or ori- entation program around ArtPrize. We wanted to create something with an outcome and a level of excitement that would involve the local arts community and a local partner, but would also be entertaining to someone who was just walking in off the street. That’s how the pitch night concept was born. It’s something that moves along pretty quickly, and it’s something that has an outcome. One of the artists will win $5,000 and guaranteed space in Grand Rapids during ArtPrize. Dave Nitkiewicz: ArtPrize has been a huge driver for visitation for Grand Rapids. His organiza- tion has partnered with ArtPrize, an annual arts festival that attracts 400,000 people to the Nitkiewicz Michigan city, to host Pitch Night events around the country. Think “Shark Tank” for art: Artists from the host communi- ties pitch concepts Gaines for large-scale pieces for designated sites in Grand Rapids. A panel of judges selects a winner who receives a gr ant to make that artistic vision a reality. Nitkiewicz and ArtPrize Executive Director Christian Gaines answered our questions about this approach to get- ting audiences engaged. ArtPrize exhibition in Grand Rapids Rapids, and we really wanted to share its success with the tourism community more broadly. When we started collabo- rating, they provided a really wonderful platform for us to get out to our clients in various cities. It’s very much an ArtPrize-led event, but our role as the tourism bureau is to be very supportive. What does planning these events look like for your organizations? Gaines: Obviously, how we decide which cities we go to is important, and there are a lot of variables there. Do we have a strong cultural partner in that city? Those cultural partners are important to us because they help us source local, industry professionals that are part of the selection panels. They also help us promote the event to the artists who are submitting proposals for consideration, as well as for an audience. It’s an efficient, customized way for us to be able to do something that’s turnkey as well as being simultaneously unique city-to-city. It’s something we can drop into a city and yield very dif- ferent results each time. Nitkiewicz: ArtPrize brings artists from around the country and the world to Grand Rapids, and over the years they’ve developed those relationships with artists that can ultimately cham- pion this very grassroots approach within their respective communities. Having that local champion really helps. What I’ve tried to do is reach out to tour operators who are interested in seeing some of the local art. So, my role there is to bring clients to [their] community-based [Pitch Night] event, and because it’s local, it helps for us to be able to partner with ArtPrize. It adds value to an ordinary sales call because clients get to meet and learn about five artists in their local commu- nity. They attend an event in their own hometown. I like being able to give them an expe- rience and show the value of Grand Rapids. It takes away the sales pitch. ArtPrize has a memorable community event, and they’ve been excellent with allowing us to piggyback on that. What makes these events effective at com- municating your organizations’ messages? Gaines: We feel good about our social media presence, and original content is an important part of what we do. One of the great things about every Pitch Night is that it yields original artists and origi- nal art, and it’s something we can talk about and cover, and our cultural part- ners can talk about and cover, too. It’s authentic, and it relates closely to our mission and guiding principles. You go into [Pitch Night] talking about art, and you come out of it talking about new art. Nitkiewicz: I think communicating what Pitch Night is, why [guests] should care and the follow-through of getting people to attend has been an obstacle. With that said, we’re really starting to polish it. We had way more attend this year than last year, and we hope that trend continues. This interview has been edited for length and clarity. For more information about Seattle, go to For more information about Grand Rapids, go to 19