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News Bites: Photography Alum Awarded ArtPrize Fellowship for Emerging Curators

Posted June 22, 2015 in AlumniNews BitesPhotography

Hunter Bridwell (’10, Photography) has been named one of four recipients of the inaugural ArtPrize Fellowship for Emerging Curators. Open to Grand Rapids residents with prior curatorial experience, these fellowships are designed as a two-part guided learning experience. Recipients work alongside the curatorial department of a major ArtPrize institutional venue to help create that venue’s ArtPrize exhibition while simultaneously curating and producing their own ArtPrize exhibition at a separate location with the support of the institutional curator.

Hunter BridwellHunter Bridwell (image courtesy of Hunter Bridwell)

Bridwell will be curating the Gillett Bridge, a pedestrian walkway that connects DeVos Place to the Gerald R. Ford Museum. Per city regulations, no piece featured in the venue can be attached to the bridge in any manner, but Bridwell sees this as an inspiration rather than a limitation.

“If you can make those kinds of restrictions work for you, then you‘re not crippled by choice,” he said. “I searched for artists that were the most dynamic and cohesive together, and whose works could respond to each other and to the space.”

The Gillett Bridge is one of the city’s most trafficked areas during ArtPrize. Still, many who cross it do so simply to get to the other side. Bridwell’s goal is to stop people in their tracks with art that’s both visually arresting and mentally engaging.

“In its most basic sense, a bridge is utilitarian; it gets you from point a to point b,” he said. “I wanted to challenge that idea.”

Gillett Bridge in downtown Grand RapidsThe Gillette Bridge in downtown Grand Rapids (image courtesy of Hunter Bridwell)

The four artists Bridwell has brought together include Jack OHearn, who will be exhibiting a 1977 Dodge RV he’s converted into a multi-media art installation that invites viewers into an interactive sensory experience, and Alaina Clarke, who will be continuing a project she started during ArtPrize 2014 titled “Curated Love,” in which she collects and displays hand-written love letters alongside geometric paper sculptures.

This is the second time Bridwell has curated an ArtPrize venue (he curated the Fish Ladder venue for ArtPrize 2014), and he’s also curated exhibitions for the Division Avenue Arts Collective (DAAC), Avenue for the Arts, and Craft House, which he also co-founded. But despite his extensive curatorial experience, he’s the first to admit that his lack of formal training has resulted in a number of mistakes over the years that he’s had to learn from the hard way.

That’s precisely why the second aspect of the initiative, in which Bridwell will work with Grand Rapids Art Museum (GRAM) curator Ron Platt to curate GRAM’s ArtPrize 2015 exhibition, is so valuable. In addition to showing Bridwell how the curatorial process works in an established, high profile venue like the GRAM, Platt has acted as a sounding board for Bridwell as he works to execute his vision for the Gillett Bridge.

“The biggest thing working with Ron has shown me is that the willingness to be flexible is really important for both sides of the relationship, curator and artist, and that you always have to stay on top of your communications,” said Bridwell. “He’s also helped me see that coming into the process with a fixed vision is not going to do you any favors. You start trying to force works into that vision rather than just exploring the different ways the works talk to one another and being open to new directions that could lead you in.”

Of the four ArtPrize Fellows, KCAD has ties to three. The Fed Galleries @ KCAD is one of four venues participating in the initiative, and both Bridwell and MFA Photography alum Ethan Ross (’14) are among the Fellows.

Click here to learn more about the artists that will be exhibiting on the Gillett Bridge as a part of Bridwell’s ArtPrize 2015 exhibition.