Grand Rapids Church More Than Ready for “Art Prize”

Written by Terry DeBoer on . Posted in Local

MurmurationThere’s likely no church in West Michigan more involved in Art Prize than Monroe Community Church, on Monroe Ave. NW just north of downtown Grand Rapids. 

“Our church art gallery is also our sanctuary, so the Art Prize exhibits surround us as we worship on Sundays,” note Steve Fridsma, one of several church members on an art selection panel.

Art Prize is an open, international art competition featuring more than 1,500 works of art exhibited at more than 170 locations around the Grand Rapids area. Voters have a say in who wins the hundreds of thousands of dollars in prize money.

Monroe Community has been an official Art Prize venue in all six years of the event.
    
“I believe that Art Prize is consistent with our church mission statement: Connecting our downtown community with our life-changing God,” said Fridsma, who is the church’s official Art Prize liaison.

    
                                             ALL ABOUT ART


This year the church is hosting works by more than a dozen artists. Most of the pieces are two-dimensional, but there are also several sculptures. Included is a work of installation art (“Murmuration”) which is 10 feet in diameter and 18 feet high.

Much of the art has specific spiritual themes, which you might glean from the titles: “Hebrew Scripture Stories” (art based on Old Testament narratives), “Living Words” (Biblical word mosaics which form images) and “In the Land of the Living We Find Our Hope” (made of “found” objects and including ashes from prayer journals).

Monroe Community pastors Henry and Amy Schenkel have crafted a sermon series based on four of the exhibited art pieces. Each sermon in the series (shared on four consecutive Sundays beginning at 10:30 a.m. Sun. Sept. 21), includes an in-person interview with the artist.
    
“I think the way our church not only accepts artists into our community, but also allows their work to inform our worship, is unique,” Fridsma added.
    
The schedule includes a message (on Sept. 28) referencing the sculpture “Itswell Wave” by David Macomber, Jr.
    
“It’s a 3-D wave made of wreckage washed up on the beach after Hurricane Sandy – a tribute to the hurricane’s victims and the community recovery,” Fridsma said of the piece, which references lyrics from the familiar hymn, "It is Well."
    
The sermon will explore questions of how should we respond when disaster strikes, and how God is faithful in such circumstances.
    
The Christian Reformed congregation at 800 Monroe NW meets in a renovated warehouse, which adds to a modern, artistic ambiance.


                                             GOOD RESPONSE

During last year’s Art Prize run, Fridsma said Monroe Community had an estimated 7,000 to 10,000 visitors in their exhibition space, and more than 900 participants registered to cast votes at their site.
    
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“Our mission statement compels us to become involved in what is happening in our community and provide avenues for people to experience God through them,” said Fridsma, who is an architect by trade.
    
“The primary hope is that it will lead to people finding or rediscovering their faith and secondarily that it would expose them to the possibility of Monroe Community being a safe place to further explore spirituality.”
    
The church is also hosting a Kids Art Day from 1 to 5 p.m. on Sun. Oct. 5.
    
The total Art Prize package is a labor-intensive effort for the church. Art Prize requires all official venues to be open from 5 to 8 p.m. Mon. – Thurs., for eight hours on Fri. and Sat. and six hours on Sundays.
    
“The biggest challenge is staffing our venue,” said volunteer Miranda Gardner. “It takes a lot of volunteer hours, but we think it’s worth it.”
    
Other Grand Rapids churches have also stepped up to join Art Prize – Take Hold Church (222 S. Division Ave.), Central Reformed (corner of Fulton and College NE), and Cornerstone Church’s downtown location (48 Lafayette Ave. SE). But Monroe Community has the longest run of continual participation.


                            AN ART SNEAK PEAK

The official dates for the Art Prize exhibitions are Sept. 24 - Oct. 12, but Monroe Community is hosting a “sneak peak” event from 6 to 8 p.m. on Tues. Sept. 23.
    
“It’s a great chance for artists and art appreciators to mingle,” said Gardner,
    
For a $5 admission charge, visitors will not only meet artists whose works are on display, and a chance at a silent auction while enjoying refreshments. The church is using the event as a fundraiser.  
    
The nearby Boardwalk Condominiums along north Monroe also have special events scheduled that evening.
Author Information
Terry DeBoer
About:
Writer: West Michigan Christian News August 2011 – Present (1 year 6 months) Monthly publication and web site with news, features, and information of interest to the West Michigan Christian community Feature writer: Muskegon Chronicle April 1996 – Present (16 years 10 months) Writer: Kalamazoo Gazette July 1991 – Present (21 years 7 months) beat includes convering contemporary Christian and Gospel music feature writer Grand Rapids Press May 1988 – Present (24 years 9 months)

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