Not Everyone’s a Critic

by Jennifer Miller on October 1, 2009

in Learning, Social Media

Not everyone’s a critic, but some days it sure feels like it. 

Case in point: in my community this year some very enterprising philanthropists organized a fantastic event called ArtPrize. The event opened September 23, 2009. In essence, it’s an art competition with an “open source” feel.  Artists from anywhere in the world are eligible to submit their art entry.  The venues are any public area in Grand Rapids, Michigan that chooses to accept an artist’s submission.  There are no curators or jurors. All told, 1262 artists in 150 venues are currently being featured throughout the greater Grand Rapids area for a two-week period. Here’s where the “prize” in ArtPrize comes in— the artists are competing for a grand prize of $250,000.  The “winner” will be determined by the art submission receiving the most votes.  Anyone can vote, as long as they register by showing valid ID. Votes are submitted by going to the ArtPrize website or via text messaging.  It’s a very contemporary take on the art world.

From where I sit, the event has been a phenomenal success.  Nearly 20,000 people showed up this weekend to view many of the entries.  Restaurants downtown ran out of food because they were so busy.  There’s been a palpable excitement in our city because of this bold and unique way to showcase art. Several of my business meetings this week have started with, “So, what do you think of ArtPrize?”

But it hasn’t been without its critics.  Comments I’ve seen in various media range from “total waste of time” to “putting a prize value on art is wrong” to “I hope that thing [entry positioned on the Grand River] falls into the river and washes away. No loss.” Sigh. Seriously?

Why are so many people expending so much energy on criticizing something that on the whole seems to be doing so much for our community? Sure, there have been glitches, but this is the event’s first year and those glitches seem nominal.

My hope is that the event organizers are able to sift through the various data points of “feedback” and be able to discern the genuinely helpful pointers from the vitriol.  There seems to be a dearth of one and an overabundance of the other.

Your thoughts?  Is social media is bringing out the critic in us?  Or has it always been there and now there’s just a more accessible way to criticize?

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