Firms support ArtPrize in different ways

By Cynthia Price
Legal News
Three Grand Rapids law firms were major supporters of this year’s ArtPrize competition, but each approached the task in somewhat different ways, and each for slightly different reasons.
For McGarry Bair, which specializes in Intellectual Property work, the driving force was the opportunity to support an enterprise whose values “march in time” with the firm’s respect for creativity. Miller Canfield “just wanted to be part of a spectacular event that’s so much a part of the community,” according to  Rick Gaffin, the Grand Rapids Resident Director. And Warner Norcross and Judd found last year’s experience so rewarding that they wanted to expand their support.
McGarry Bair funded ArtPrize in general for the second year, in keeping with the firm’s philosophy that creativity and respect for creative output are two sides of the same coin. Attorney Mary Bonnema points to the firm’s recent adoption of the tagline Respect the Art® as an indication that protecting the rights of creative people is the top priority of McGarry Bair.
Further, Bonnema says, the staff at McGarry Bair is full of unique personalities who view themselves as “creatively practicing law,” and ArtPrize focuses on unique works of art.
 We have unique personalities at MB we view ourselves as creatively practicing law, and the values march in time with our values, and ArtPrize focuses on unique personalities.
“From a personal and professional standpoint,” Bonnema continued, “I thought it was terrific. I loved seeing all of the artwork, all the different media, and it’s great to see the invigoration of  Grand Rapids. This is a great way to bring people from all different backgrounds and have them actually exchange ideas and to make art accessible to the public.”
Rick Gaffin of Miller Canfield said the firm’s sponsoring a venue — the Louis Campau promenade and inside their building at 99 Monroe N.W. — offered two benefits. First, it helped make clear Miller Canfield’s role in “the community in which we’ve been involved for almost 30 years now.”
Second, it was an opportunity to partner closely with long-time client Comerica. In fact, Gaffin says, under earlier names, the bank has been a client of Miller Canfield since the beginnings of its 158-year history in Detroit.
The bank and the law firm hired a curator to determine what art would be featured in the venues during the “courtship” phase of ArtPrize. Barbara Kratchman has been very involved in the Michigan arts world in Michigan and was the founder and president of ArtServe Michigan.
Gaffin continues, “We used ArtPrize as a springboard for entertainment; we even had a group of out-of-town folks take a bus trip to see the art. It was a lot of fun — not all work but a lot of play.”
Miller Canfield also does Intellectual Property work.
Rodney Martin of Warner Norcross and Judd said that the firm was pleased to have Calder Plaza, the space they sponsored, curated by Joe Becker of Meijer Gardens. The firm did not have to make arrangements for Becker as ArtPrize had already scheduled him to curate Calder Plaza.
Last year WNJ sponsored single pieces of art, but Martin said the firm wanted to expand its commitment based on how rewarding last year’s experience was. The firm co-sponsored Calder Plaza with Fifth Third Bank, whose building WNJ occupies, and also co-hosted a reception for clients and community leaders to meet the artists.
“We were proud to sponsor. We’re headquartered right down here in Grand Rapids, and ArtPrize’s support of downtown Grand Rapids is incredible,” Martin said.
Martin was favorably impressed with Margaret Walker’s “C’ood, a Democracy Experiment,” a walk-through dome woven of bright Michigan T-shirts sent to the artist. The slogans found on the T-shirt were copied onto the floor of the piece. According to Walker’s statement, “C’ood” is a contraction for “Common Good.” 
Comments Martin, “ArtPrize portrays Grand Rapids as an innovative community, and it’s good to see people outside of G.R. understand how much innovation and entrepreneurialism there is in this community.”
Grand Valley State University conducted a study which estimated that ArtPrize 2009 brought in $5-7 million in revenue, and this year’s event is expected to exceed that.