Phoenix Artist and Snood City Founder Michelle Meyer Wins Arizona ArtPrize Pitch Night

Snood City
Phoenix-based artist Michelle Meyer will be showing her work at ArtPrize 2021.
Phoenix-based multimedia artist Michelle Meyer will be showing her work during ArtPrize, the festival and competition founded in 2009 that takes place in Grand Rapids, Michigan, after making a winning pitch during a recent competition between five Arizona artists.

Meyer will be showing a sculptural piece called Retro Maven, but here in Phoenix, Meyer is best known for founding an arts collective called Snood City, which officially opened its neon-focused creative space in the Grand Avenue art hub near downtown Phoenix in early 2019. She’ll build Retro Maven at the nearby Citywide Studios.

This year’s ArtPrize happens from September 16 to October 3. That’s when Meyer’s work will be on view outdoors, where people can experience it both day and night. “I’ve always wanted to do monumental art that creates a sense of wonder,” Meyer says. “Festivals are really appealing because of all the revelry and art and people coming together.”

Typically, about 500,000 people attend the Michigan event. This year, the ArtPrize competition will include artist awards totaling $250,000. Several Arizona artists have shown work at ArtPrize in the past, including Nathaniel Lewis and Saskia Jorda, who received ArtWins grants in 2018.

As the winner of the Arizona pitch night, Meyer will receive a $15,000 grant to realize her ArtPrize installation. Meyer says the ArtPrize opportunity represents a significant milestone in her career. “I’ve been working for quite a long time to get into the public art sector in the realm of fine arts,” she says.

In reality, she’s been doing art in public spaces for several years, creating large-scale installations and presenting characters she calls Snoodmen. Meyer originated the bright, furry characters in 2013, when they were part of an exhibition at the Icehouse creative space situated inside a former warehouse. Meyer earned her BFA in sculpture at ASU in 2014.

click to enlarge Michelle Meyer with one of her Snoodmen characters. - SNOOD CITY
Michelle Meyer with one of her Snoodmen characters.
Snood City
She’s hoping to make the Snoodmen part of her ArtPrize installation, adding another dimension to the viewer experience. “My work focuses on interactive exchange,” Meyer explains. “I want to bring art off the walls, because art is something we experience, not just something we look at.”

Meyer is the latest artist to receive a grant from ArtWins Arizona, an organization modeled after ArtPrize. Founded by Phoenix attorney Dan Packard in 2018, the nonprofit works to increase the visibility of Arizona artists on a national and international level. The first pitch night happened in 2018, at the FOUND:RE Phoenix hotel. The 2021 pitch night happened via Zoom, due to pandemic precautions. It’s available online for anyone who might have missed the June 29 event.

Before every pitch night competition, ArtWins puts out a public call for art, inviting Arizona artists to submit proposals. A jury selects several proposals, and those artists get five minutes to make the case for their idea in front of a panel of judges.

This year, ArtWins partnered with a cultural organization called Creative Flagstaff. Hence the judges included arts professionals based in Phoenix, Northern Arizona, and Grand Rapids.

The nonprofits hope to launch an ArtPrize-inspired festival and competition in Flagstaff, but Packard says they won’t make a final decision until after this year’s ArtPrize competition. Either way, Meyer’s sculpture will be temporarily installed in Flagstaff after its Grand Rapids run.

click to enlarge Rendering for Michelle Meyer's Retro Maven winning installation. - ARTWINS ARIZONA
Rendering for Michelle Meyer's Retro Maven winning installation.
ArtWins Arizona
Meyer was one of 12 artists who submitted proposals for this year’s Arizona pitch night competition. Five artists were selected to participate, including Meyer and Julie Comnick of Flagstaff, Lily Reeves of Phoenix, James Trahan of Scottsdale, and Zach Valent of Mesa. Each had five minutes to talk about their proposed ArtPrize installations.

Valent pitched a giant Jenga set with a single gold block, referencing the workings of free market economies. Trahan pitched a sculpture of crushed scrap metal, addressing the idea of wants versus needs. Reeves pitched a light sculpture exploring the impact of colonial power structures on biodiversity, and Comnick pitched a multimedia monument addressing human migration and climate gentrification.

Meyer’s proposal was distinguished by its “positive and affirming” approach, according to Packard, who wasn’t an official judge but did get to listen in as the panel weighed the pitch night presentations. “People have had enough of bad news,” he says. “This stood out because it's happy and charming, and it really contrasts with the buildings that will surround it.”

Her design features an abstract human form, which she’ll create with an intriguing mix of materials including mirrors and lights. For the head, she found inspiration in the holographic effects of the metal used to make street signs. For the hair, she’ll incorporate an optical illusion called the moiré effect. “For the bright colors,” Meyer says, “I drew on visual styles from Tetris, disco, and pop art.”

Although Meyer felt confident with her own design, she recalls being impressed by the other pitch night proposals. “Everyone’s concepts were so powerful, and they had such strong messages.”

In the end, Meyer’s idea won out. “I was in a little bit of shock after I won, but of course I’m excited; it feels really validating of my work.”