ArtWins Competition Coming to Phoenix in November 2020: What We Know So Far

Saskia Jorda working on a previous installation at CityScape.EXPAND
Saskia Jorda working on a previous installation at CityScape.
Phoenix Art Museum
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A new art competition called ArtWins, offering perhaps as much as a half-million dollars in prize money, is coming to Phoenix in November 2020. Organizers made the official announcement on Thursday, April 4, during an invitation-only event held at Phoenix jewelry store Black, Starr & Frost.

It's the brainchild of Phoenix attorney Dan Packard, who drew inspiration from ArtPrize, an international art competition launched in Grand Rapids, Michigan, in 2009. ArtPrize was founded by Rick DeVos, son of Betsy DeVos, U.S. Secretary of Education for the Trump administration.

Packard grew up in Grand Rapids, so he’s well-versed in ArtPrize, which features 19 days of art experiences culminating in select artists getting cash awards. In March 2018, he started a nonprofit in order to explore the possibility of creating a similar event here in Phoenix.

Packard conceived the idea while participating in a Valley Leadership program that requires people to create projects with significant community impact. He changed the event's name to ArtWins after consulting with his board of directors.

ArtWins will join a growing list of new art ventures in metro Phoenix.

The California-based company Wonderspaces is opening its first permanent exhibition space on Friday, April 5, inside Scottsdale Fashion Square. And New Mexico-based Meow Wolf is working with real estate developer True North Studio to create the first Meow Wolf hotel, exhibition, and music space. The Meow Wolf space will be located on Third Street, just south of Roosevelt Street.

ArtWins organizers describe their event as an annual citywide art exhibition and festival.

They’re expecting thousands of artists to show work at hundreds of venues during a 19-day period in November 2020. And they want to award $500,000 in prizes. Half the monies will go to winners chosen by art experts; the rest will go to winners chosen by public vote.

Organizers are working now to build a “technology platform and competition structure” for ArtWins. They’ll do a test run in November 2019, in the form of a smaller-scale guitar design and art competition they’re calling Sonorous Desert.

It’s been just over a year since Packard began seeking community support for his ArtPrize-style project, which included presenting his vision during the February 2018 meeting for Downtown Voices Coalition, a community organization that brings together representatives of various downtown neighborhoods and other interested community members. Next came a public information session, held later that month at Phoenix Center for the Arts.

Diego Perez in Phoenix, with a work he later showed during ArtPrize 2018.
Diego Perez in Phoenix, with a work he later showed during ArtPrize 2018.
Michelle Sasonov

Last May, five artists competed at Found:RE Phoenix for a chance to show work during ArtPrize 2018 in Grand Rapids. Each artist pitched an idea before a panel of three curators and members of the public. Nathaniel Lewis won that competition, and went on to show a large-scale sculpture of a cap gun during last year’s ArtPrize.

Several additional artists with Arizona ties participated in ArtPrize 2018. Saskia Jorda, as well as Lauren Strohacker and Kendra Sollars, were finalists in the public vote category. Artists Diego Perez and Eddie Sparr exhibited work as well.

Packard attended a portion of ArtPrize 2018, along with a team of seven Arizona business professionals and community members, who explored competition offerings and met with ArtPrize leaders.

Even as ArtWins is ramping up for its first event, ArtPrize is making a significant change. Until last year, ArtPrize was an annual event. But organizers have announced the next event will take place in 2020, rather than 2019.

Here in Phoenix, ArtWins will join an existing arts landscape that already includes a multiday art happening called Art Detour, which was founded by Phoenix artists in 1989. Art Detour comprises a series of exhibits, studio tours, and other events designed to highlight the downtown Phoenix arts scene, which typically happens in March.

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