Sunday, November 22, 2009

Carol Coletta Talks About ArtPrize Grand Rapids

Carol Coletta, the head of CEO's for cities has a great take on the ArtPrize contest.

Of course she has to take a gratuitous backhanded shot at it's founder Rick DeVos, the wealthy son of one of Amway's co-founders, described as "famously conservative". In fact, Amway's founders would be far more accurately described as Libertarian and pro free market.

It should be obvious, that I love the Art Prize idea for the same reason I love Jane Jacobs in that both DeVos and Jacobs placed faith in the abilities, energy and creativity of individuals over self appointed experts and bureaucracies.

"ArtPrize also proves the value of rapid (in this case, lightning-fast) prototyping. This initiative went from zero to 1,200 artists in five months. Although DeVos always intended that the competition would be decentralized, the timeline forced him to pursue radical decentralization. And that led to rapid prototyping. As DeVos put it, “We had so little time that we were forced to admit when stuff was not working. We just tried something else.”

Another lesson demonstrated by ArtPrize is the value of giving people permission to be entrepreneurial. Artists, by nature, are risk-takers. They make things that are unfamiliar and new to the rest of us, then send their creations out into the world to be judged by the rest of us. But ArtPrize was a platform for entrepreneurship at a massive scale—for artists promoting their work with their own networks, for venue owners, for bloggers, for those promoting Grand Rapids, and for ArtPrize voters.

Finally, ArtPrize organized as a platform rather than as an institution. It completely defied the convention of nonprofits."

That's right folks-- they offered a tidy cash prize and then actually allowed creative people to be creative-- something very rare, these days.

I'm not at all sure the lessons learned here will be copied by many but something very powerful might have been unleashed.

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