Church Ramps Up Art Prize Effort

Written by Terry DeBoer on . Posted in Local

Understanding235“Understanding the Whole” by Kim Kleinhardt Art Prize 2016 certainly has brought new people into church.

"Foot traffic has been good through here," said Alex Fernandez, pastor at Cornerstone - Heritage Hill in downtown Grand Rapids.

Fernandez said through the first weekend of this eighth annual art competition, nearly a thousand visitors had seen the church's 16 art displays both indoors and out.

The upstart congregation (a campus of the multi-site Cornerstone Church in Caledonia) featured only outdoor pieces the previous two years with Art Prize. But this year the church took a big step and added indoor displays as well.

"We've got enough staff and volunteers here during the open hours that we can be good hosts and even are giving interested people a tour of our historic building," he noted.

Art Prize, with its 1,400 entries spread over 170 venues, has been called "the most-attended public art event on the planet" and has drawn as many as 400,000 spectators annually over its 19-day run. Public voting in two rounds ends Oct. 6, with winners announced the following day in both the voting and expert juried categories.


Like the other six downtown churches which are involved in Art Prize, not all of their art carries religious expression. "We were looking for artwork that would appeal to a broad spectrum of patrons, but still carry a positive message," said Bret VanderWall, who heads Cornerstone's Art Prize committee.

"We're very excited to house all types of art and with multiple disciplines and mediums, both large and small."

The Question larger“The Question” by Lucianne SiersLarge is the operative word for "The Last Supper Revised," by artist Ricky Whitaker. The 21 by 11 foot work was painstakingly drawn using 3,000 colored pencils and took 18 months to complete, offering a representation of Leonardo DaVinci's famous work.
The piece is so massive, the only space that the church had to display it was in its worship center. "I would say that's the one that has garnered the most interest, with people talking about it and coming here to see it specifically," said Fernandez.

Among other of the art offerings: "Abstract and Reality in Beeswax" (by Sally Stap), "Superior Dreams V" (a five-panel quilt by Barbara Bushey), and Lucianne Siers' "The Question," (a 3-D piece depicting the annunciation by the angel to Mary).

"There's another piece ('Understanding the Whole') that is wood and mixed media with remarkable details and a positive message besides," VanderWall added.

The church is at 48 Lafayette St. SE, just a block south of Fulton. Parking during Art Prize is often a puzzle in and near downtown. The church has a 25-car lot of its own but also has relationships with the adjoining Women's City Club and business offices across the street for some extra parking space. Most of their Art Prize visitors are parking elsewhere and are making Cornerstone part of their walking tour throughout downtown.


Cornerstone launched its downtown church site in 2013 after it purchased the building from a Christian Science congregation. They began worship that fall with 80 people, nearly all from the church's other sites. Now there are 350 persons who gather each Sunday in its 500-seat sanctuary.

"The building goes back to the early 1900s and has some unique architectural features and design," said Fernandez.

Church officials decided to offer guided walking tours to any Art Prize visitors who may be interested in seeing the structure. It has previously been part of the annual Heritage Hill tour of homes.

Fernandez noted that Sunday worshippers are also seeing the art either before or after their service.

"Being a new church in the downtown community we wanted to make people aware that we are here," said the pastor of their decision to join the Art Prize festivities. "Part of it was outreach, but also it was to be neighbors and participants as well as part of the Heritage Hill Association. Art Prize brings people from all over and we love to be part of seeing the city come to life."

Other downtown Grand Rapids churches with Art Prize displays are Central Reformed, Monroe Community, First Park Congregational, Fountain Street, First United Methodist, and Crossroads Bible. (Degage Ministries on S. Division Ave. is also an Art Prize site.)
Author Information
Terry DeBoer
Author: Terry DeBoer
Terry is a journalist/feature writer for newspapers, magazines and websites, with a background in radio broadcasting. His usual beat is arts and entertainment, specializing in Christian/gospel music. A married father of two, he is based in Grand Rapids, Michigan Contributing Writer: West Michigan Christian News August 2011 – Present Feature writer: (website and various newspapers) 1988– 2016 -Spotlight New Christian Music Magazine 1997-2008 -Church News Editor, Church Herald Magazine 2004-2009

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