Artwork on display inside the DeVos Place Convention Center, one of 160 venues during ArtPrize in Grand Rapids, Michigan (via Flickr Creative Commons).
Once again, Grand Rapids is currently in the midst of ArtPrize— the annual "American Idol of art" that sees hopeful artists from around the world attempt to win over both jurors and the popular vote for cash prizes. Since launching in 2009, the contest has been the subject of plenty of criticism — supported as a true celebration of low-brow art by some, but derided by others for facilitating an environment where spectacle seems to trump substance.
In a recent longread about the art competition, Ruffin told Belt Magazinebluntly: “ArtPrize killed the underground artistic scene in Grand Rapids."
“This big thing comes along and suddenly the focus shifts for a good part of the year for any artist who is inexperienced and doesn’t know where to apply themselves. ArtPrize put a big [expletive] ceiling on everything. It’s like, ‘Well, I have my ideas, and now I’ve gotta do it within this framework.’”
Ruffin and Super Happy Funtime Burlesque have participated in ArtPrize — in their own characteristically cheeky way. In 2014, they performed ArtPrize! The Musical — starring Ruffin as a superhero Rick DeVos, the Amway heir who founded the competition. This year, they performed an updated version called I Almost Won At ArtPrize! The Musical, (though it wasn't officially part of the contest.)
ArtPrize started September 23 and concludes October 11. In the meantime, watch ArtPrize! The Musical below: