Forging trust-based relationships to create site-based art and performance that provides unconventional access to diverse people, places and perspectives.
A community need gave rise to ArtPeers in 2009, when a massive arts festival’s borders excluded several neighborhoods in the city’s urban core. ArtPeers collaborated with local businesses and neighborhood organizations to create a platform for local artists to share their work, and we expanded the scale of the satellite festival in subsequent years. In 2010, ArtPeers began collaborating with area colleges, universities and arts organizations, to create popular discussion-based events, exploring topics such as: the art of good business, growing from arts criticism, exploring partnerships, understanding contacts and permissions forms, and other essential tools to advance a culture where local arts could survive and thrive. By 2012, ArtPeers began working more directly toward embodying these practices, launching unconventional collaborations that broke down barriers between cultures, communities and collectives: first by collaborating with DITA (Dance in the Annex) to produce several sold-out events at Wealthy Theatre, creating a collision chamber of creative possibilities through multi-disciplinary dance/music concerts like “Salmagundi” and “TRIP THE LIGHT.” Ultimately co-producing nearly ten such events, ArtPeers helped to change the creative landscape in Grand Rapids for good, enabling local artists to seek new opportunities through unconventional collaborations. In 2014, ArtPeers collaborated in a project for ArtPrize, winning the $20,000 Juried Time-Based Award. That same year, ArtPeers won an international award (Brazil) for a dance-on-film piece created during Avenue of the Arts. In 2015, ArtPeers was invited to exhibit live/film/photo work at urban art institutes ranging from UICA to Detroit’s famed N’namdi Center for Contemporary Art. In 2016, ArtPeers collaborated with dozens of arts/culture leaders to create a commissioned work for Downtown Grand Rapids Inc. (DGRI) called “together,” that was viewed half a million times and shared almost 5,000 times on social media.
In the past several years, ArtPeers has become known for creating location-responsive art and performance through “artistic investigations” of otherwise unfamiliar communities, cultures and concepts. One of our primary strengths includes creating trust-based relationships with people, places and perspectives that have been hard to access. We have demonstrated an ability to create permanence from ephemeral moments, through authentic documentation of performance-based work that happens in specific locations. We research and come to understand these “sites” (which includes the historic and cultural context of the place) and the project is shaped by this process, which is hallmarked by respect and trust, producing authentic representations that help people “see” each other. The results often include shareable assets (media) that create conversations that otherwise wouldn’t happen, adding aspects to the narrative that did not exist.