For three weeks in September, beer-fueled debates in the bars of one Michigan town aren’t about sports and politics but art. Hundreds of thousands of people come to Grand Rapids to engage with blue-chip artists in ways that rarely happen at Art Basel or other established art events, unless you’re a major collector or critic.
More Art Upstairs follows four accomplished artists as they compete at ArtPrize, a populist experiment that’s challenging the art world’s hierarchy by giving the public the power to decide which art will win almost half the $500,000 in prize money.
What attracts our artists is the chance to win this public vote, but also to gain exposure to some of the country’s top art critics, who dash into town to select which art will win the rest of the prize money. Local bistros, bars, and abandoned buildings showcase the work – more than 1500 creations – and the artists are compelled to be outgoing. They stand next to their art all day, talking to people who are often experiencing contemporary art for the first time.
With unmatched access to artists, organizers, jurors, and visitors, the film captures the entire wild ride of this competition. The result – a thoughtful yet exuberant experience about this curious confluence of paintings, populism, and the notion that art can express something important about what it means to be human.
“Both sides of the art-appreciation spectrum are represented; though they don’t agree, they get a glimpse into the other’s point of view…You’ll be rooting for your favorites and perhaps examining your own preconceptions of what art is, what it does and whom it’s meant for.”
– Peter Keough, The Boston Globe
Directed by Jody Hassett Sanchez, 77 min, English
Followed by discussion with Director Jody Hassett Sanchez & Creative Alliance Curator Thomas James.
Filmmaker-journalist Jody Hassett Sanchez’s focus is the intersection/collision of faith and culture. Her first documentary was broadcast in 60+ countries, screened on 1000+ campuses, selected for IFP’s Filmmakers Lab, and the State Department’s international cultural program. She covered religion, art, and education for ABC’s “World News Tonight” and “Nightline” and was a senior producer of CNN’s “Cold War Postscript,” a 24-part documentary style program filmed in 14 countries. She also created a weekly art program on CNN International which sparked many of the questions explored in More Art Upstairs.