Things to do before Art Prize: a checklist

Things to do before Art Prize: a checklist

Preparing for a competition like Art Prize 2018 takes many things into account that some people would not even think about. The exhibition itself runs for 19 days, and ideally, someone needs to be with the painting to help answer questions about the work and garner votes. There is a preview week before that, so even just the event itself takes a month in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Doing this from Florida as a home base involves some logistics.

Florida artist Kevin Grass created the large Not #MeToo: No More Casting Couch painting showing two ballerinas resisting Harvey Weinstein. One ballerina cringes from this sexual predator, while the other defends herself using pepper spray. This is my entry No. 66841 in Art Prize 10 in Grand Rapids, Michigan, in 2018.

I thought I would share some of the “to do’s” that I had/have to do as an artist participating during the 10th anniversary of this competition. Other artists might find this information useful for their own entries in the future, while art collectors will get more of a “behind the scenes” look at what it takes to show a work there.

The suggestions on the “to do” list are in no particular order, and many were first passed on to me by a great photorealist artist, Ken Hershenson. This artist, who does an incredible series of acrylic paintings involving jacks and puns on the word “Jack,” is a three-time veteran of Art Prize. He is not participating in Art Prize 2018 but is coming from the Detroit area to help support my entry and loan me his director’s chair. I am so glad to have an artist friend who is in my corner!

Michigan artist Ken Hershenson is showing his I DO Know Jack! series of acrylic paintings to Florida painter Kevin Grass (far right) at the J. W. Marriott Hotel in Grand Rapids, Michigan, during Art Prize 2017.
  • Create artwork. In my case, that involved building a stretcher and stretching a 7-feet tall by 14-feet wide canvas and painting my Not #MeToo: No More Casting Couch work on it.
  • Build a suitable frame for the work. I had to gold-leaf the 5” wide frame, which consisted of two moldings held together to provide the sides of the frame. It was quite a wood-working project!
  • Get professional photographs of the work. Because my entry is so large, it was difficult to get clear photos of the painting without too much glare on them.
  • Apply for Art Prize on the Art Prize website. Our entry was $100, since my wife Michaela and I entered as the “Kevin Grass Fine Art” team.
  • Connecting with a venue to show the work. Reaching out to venues I am interested in and finding out if they would like to show the piece. In my case, I also had to turn down two venues that wanted to show my painting. I was honored that I got such a positive response from the venues for my work.
  • Signage for the show. I have a clear acrylic sign with my logo and “Kevin Grass Paintings” on it that I had made for some international art fairs earlier that I may hang up. Ken also pointed out that I need to have signs for the daily Top 25 and the Final Top 25 (if applicable) to display by the work. I also need to mount the symbolism sheet that explains the iconography of the work next to the piece.This is the clear acrylic sign with my logo. I used “Paintings” instead of “Fine Art” because in the past some people thought my works were photographs since they are so realistic.
  • I also had the symbolism sheet I made to explain the iconography of the painting printed on aluminum to hang by the piece during the show.
  • Organize furniture for the exhibition. In my case, a computer table from Ikea will be used to show a slide show of the creation of this piece and display business cards. A director’s chair from Costco will provide a place to sit during the long periods that the museum is open during Art Prize.
  • Create a video showing the “making of” the Art Prize entry painting to show on the computer table next to the piece. Here is a link to the 15-minute video my wife Michaela made about the creation of this painting: Not #MeToo video 
  • Have hard cover books of other artwork, of the symbolism in the other paintings, and of the making of the Not #MeToo: No More Casting Couch painting available for visitors who want to stay longer and learn more about my work.
  • Find a place to stay during the competition. In my case, I was fortunate that my venue, the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum, has a volunteer who has hosted previous Art Prize participants before and who is opening her home to me and my wife during the exhibition.
  • Organize transportation to and from Art Prize. My wife Michaela and I plan to drive the 20-hour trip to Grand Rapids, Michigan, in our minivan with the painting rolled up and the stretcher bars and frame disassembled. Once the work has been put back together, I need to return to Florida, since I have a full-time teaching job at St. Petersburg College. Michaela will stay with the painting each day during the competition, and I plan to fly up on weekends to do my part to help promote the work then. That means several flights back and forth, and afterward helping Michaela drive the work back down to Florida.
  • Purchasing art insurance for the work. Comparing several quotes in order to get the best value on an insurance policy that covers both liability and the artwork itself.
  • Printing business cards with the voting number. It has been suggested that I might start with about 10,000 business cards showing my painting and voting number that people can pick up when they visit the Ford Museum. While most people vote for individual artworks on a telephone app, many will want to see an artist’s website and keep a card with information about their favorite works. I was told that about 250,000 visitors descend on the Ford Museum during Art Prize, so I may have to re-order more cards during the event if I run low.


Above are my designs for the two sides of the business cards I’ll be using during Art Prize.

  • Having a special coupon code for people who visit Art Prize on the business cards and organizing a special sale on the prints on my website, during the show.
  • My wife Michaela needs extra time to prepare to teach her normal face-to-face art history class at St. Petersburg College online during the time she is watching the painting during Art Prize. She will be gone for a month, so there is quite a bit of prep work before the fall semester even begins.
  • Doing a press release about the work and sending it out a couple of weeks beforehand to local media in the Grand Rapids area, as well as in the Tampa Bay area where I live.
  • After voting has begun, check to see if my work features in the daily Top 25 in the 2-D category. If so, display the appropriate sign next to the painting, and promote that on social media.
  • Social media marketing for the work. Reach out to the Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram followers by posting daily from Art Prize to let them know how it is going and to help drum up support for my painting.
  • Buy snacks to keep hydrated and fed during the time the museum is open. By purchasing them in bulk and keeping them in the trunk of the car, we can save money during the long days staying with the painting and talking to the public.

  • Bring gum and hard candy to keep our voices from going too hoarse because we are talking to so many people during Art Prize.
  • Figure out a proper wardrobe for the show. Apparently, the weather in Grand Rapids in September/October can go from hot to windy, chilly, and rainy, so having outfits for each contingency is useful.

Those are all the things I can think of to do before heading up to Grand Rapids. Because it is my first time with this competition, I may have overlooked something important, but hope to be able to wing it if that is the case.

Please help support my entry by voting for No. 66841 if you are in Grand Rapids during the Art Prize competition from September 19-October 7, 2018.

This is my finished work after it is framed. Wish me luck!

Thanks and I hope to see you at Art Prize!

Kevin Grass signature

To see my entire portfolio of paintings, please check out! You can purchase original paintings and fine art print reproductions directly from my website.

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