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GRCC hosting three ArtPrize entries on Dr. Juan R. Olivarez Student Plaza

Sept. 14, 2021, GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. – Grand Rapids Community College will be a part of ArtPrize as the event returns this week, hosting three outdoor entries on the Dr. Juan R. Olivarez Student Plaza.

ArtPrize is the international art competition celebrating artists who work in all mediums. Starting Thursday, the entries will be on display for 18 days.

The three entries at GRCC are located on the south end of Olivarez Plaza. 

Liz Albert and Shane VanOosterhout, working under the name Liz and Shane Studio, installed “Instant Classic,” a project based around discarded Polaroid photographs.

The artists, friends since childhood, add poignant and humorous phrases to the outsized prints of the photos.

“In today’s digital universe, we remain transfixed by the Polaroid camera’s clever design and the vibrant memory-object it leaves behind,” they wrote for their artists’ statement.

Albert is a Grand Rapids native now living in Boston. VanOosterhout is an adjunct digital media professor at Kendall College of Art and Design and is a coordinator with the Grand Rapids Center for Community Transformation.

Niarus Walker’s “Good Breeding Stock” consists of two sculptures made from recycled coax cable debris salvaged from Hurricane Maria. The sculptures are a male and female, with the lower half of the male becoming a bull and the lower half of the female a cow. Each is breaking a chain.

“The image represents the very tangible reality of how enslaved Africans were bred as cattle from the fittest of the population in order to harvest a stronger breed that could survive the hardships of slavery in much the same way as the Senepol was bred to be less susceptible to diseases and withstand the harsh Caribbean climate,” the artist wrote. “The sculpture is built out of the trauma and also represents resilience, determination and strength of the people of the African Diaspora.”

Walker was born in Dominica, West Indies, and lives in St. Croix in the U.S. Virgin Islands. She is an artist and educator and works in various media, but considers herself primarily a painter.

Jerry Bahls of Fridley, Minn., is a retired chemist who loves the look and feel of common buckthorn wood. His sculpture, “Mantis on Mushroom,” is a large depiction of the insect on the plant.

“I work exclusively with common buckthorn and glossy buckthorn, two common invasive trees that are all too abundant in Minnesota,” he wrote.

Olivarez Plaza also is home to three permanent pieces of artwork:

  • A statue of Helen Claytor, a civil rights activist who became the first African-American president of the national YWCA, was installed in 2014 as part of the Grand Rapids Community Legends series. Jay Hall Carpenter is the artist.
  • Joseph Kinnebrew’s “Aspiration of Inspiration” was erected in 1999.
  • The college’s iconic lion fountain, dedicated to former Grand Rapids Junior College President Arthur Andrews, was erected in 1954.

GRCC’s Paul Collins Art Gallery is highlighting the work of world-renowned artist and alumnus Peter Fink. The public can view the photos -- which have been exhibited in more than 60 institutions in the United States, Israel, Cuba, France and England – in the gallery, located on the fourth floor of Raleigh J. Finkelstein Hall at 143