2017-09-07 / Life in Leelanau


Centerville Township artist to have three pieces featured in ArtPrize Nine
By Amy Hubbell
Of The Enterprise staff

PAINTINGS BY Audrey Smith of Cedar have been selected for ArtPrize in Grand Rapids, Sept. 20 through Oct. 8. PAINTINGS BY Audrey Smith of Cedar have been selected for ArtPrize in Grand Rapids, Sept. 20 through Oct. 8. Audrey Smith is making her mark in the world, painting animals she’s never seen in person.

The 26-year-old Cedar woman will be sharing her never-before-seen pieces with thousands of others as part of ArtPrize in Grand Rapids.

Smith, daughter of Jeff and Linda Smith of Centerville Township, has painted since about age 5.

“I’ve always had it in me,” she said. “It helps me. It helps calm my anxieties.”

Born in Minneapolis, Smith was diagnosed with Velocardiofacial Syndrome, a genetic condition affecting the heart. Her first heart surgery took place when she was four days old, and she has since undergone two more open-heart surgeries since.

The syndrome can lead to emotional issues, such as anxiety and learning disabilities.

“I do mostly acrylics. I tried oil, but I didn’t like the smell,” Smith said.

A Glen Lake 2010 graduate, she was encouraged by the late Ben Bricker, a Glen Arbor artist who taught jewelry-making at the school.

Her sketch pad includes drawings of wildebeests, leopards, flamingos and giraffes — all with great detail.

None of the giraffe’s spots are the same.

“I see beauty in them,” she said, noting that these same creatures are the target of big game hunters.

Her bedroom in the upstairs of the family farm house doubles as a painting studio. She’ll work in two-to-three hour increments, then takes a break and do something else, such as workout.

“Time is precious. I’ll work and then do something else. But not for long — I don’t want to lose my mojo.”

Smith has shown her work at Art Bomb and The Art Mixer in Traverse City. But in April, Smith and her father, Jeff, editor of Traverse, Northern Michigan’s Magazine, worked together to submit her work for inclusion in ArtPrize, a 19-day event in Grand Rapids where artists compete for $500,000 in cash prizes.

The event, scheduled for Sept. 20 through Oct. 8, attracts more than 500,000 visitors, making it the most attended public art event in the world in 2014 and 2015, according to the “Big Ticket List” in The Art Newspaper.

Smith’s art is influenced by her favorite artists: Pablo Picasso, Georgia O’Keefe and Gustav Klimt, a 19th-century Austrian painter known for the highly decorative style and his use of gold leaf, gold that’s been hammered into a thin foil and applied in a lengthy gilding process. Smith sent a biography and pictures of three pieces: a frontal view of a gorilla in red with a gold leaf background, entitled “Golden Africa”; a zebra and a line up of elephants from the rear, also in gold leaf.

“Every year, my mom has said ‘we should go to ArtPrize,’ but we never got around to it,” Smith said. “We’re going this year.”

Two of the Smith’s three other children and extended family members will gather with them at the event, where cash awards are decided equally by public vote and expert jury over the nearly three-week celebration of art.

Smith’s pieces will be hung in Gita Pita, 2 Jefferson Ave. SE, in Grand Rapids.

Awards are based on the number of votes cast using an ArtPrize mobile app.

“You can download the app from anywhere, but it can only be activated when you are in Grand Rapids,” Jeff Smith said. “GPS verifies you.”

Once activated, thus proving you have been to Grand Rapids, you can vote from wherever you happen to be. There are multiple stages of voting, and you don’t have to revisit Grand Rapids to vote on subsequent stages.

“But, you have to activate the app this year, so a previous year’s app won’t work. It has to be current, so you have to visit Grand Rapids this year,” he said.

Further information about the event is available at ArtPrize.org.

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