TRIPLE THREAT: ERIN WILSON
THURSDAY APRIL 26th, 2012
A gifted writer and the current director of the historic Wealthy Theatre in Grand Rapids, Erin Wilson is gaining attention for some new initiatives in Grand Rapids art community. He has an interesting perspective on the larger impact of ArtPrize on the local artists. While few can dispute the juggernaut that is ArtPrize and its economic contribution to the area, Wilson feels the 18-day event with its major cash prizes and the pull of major artists from outside of the area, overshadows the community of local artists that are present in Grand Rapids, creating and producing the other 347 days of the year. For this reason and others, Erin Wilson and a core group of like-minded individuals had the vision to create a nonprofit organization for GR artists called ArtPeers.
“The whole idea came out of some things that were missing here – peer support, and the notion that local artists have value. We have some brilliant people working here in Grand Rapids,” said Wilson. “What we’ve created is a conversation, to help local artists consider the true value of what they do and to find ways to create an appreciation for that value – even if the artist chooses to donate his/her time and/or works of art.”
Wilson has been dubbed “Diaghilev” by his partner Amy, after the famed Russian art critic and impresario credited with co-founding the Ballet Russes in the early 1900’s. While the appeal of the name for Amy may have been because she herself is a dancer and choreographer (she is founder of the groundbreaking modern dance collective Dance In The Annex) – for Erin its appeal lies in the parts of Diaghilev’s life that relate to his tireless promotion of the arts – in many forms. Wilson humbly cites a quote attributed to Diaghilev about his contribution to the arts “…I make nothing and do nothing.” This is where the comparison to Diaghilev breaks down – Erin Wilson has many talents of his own – a visit to his website diaghilev.me will demonstrate the point.
ArtPeers is currently working on several projects which align with its mission to “advance a culture that values local artists.” Plans include ongoing exhibitions – both physical and virtual – which showcase local artists and use local businesses as venues. These efforts will be presented on the website, which is designed to be a curated site and an open community, where participants will soon be able to post pictures and engage in conversations so that the site becomes a living archive of those who locally-produce Grand Rapids art.
ArtPeers is now working on an untitled but in-progress video project. The video series takes the viewer into the homes of people with notable art collections which include many forms of locally made art, along with other more established works. The point is to demonstrate that local works of art are and should be taken seriously, alongside national and international works. The raw video for the first three installments of the project has been shot and the video project is now moving into post-production. “And this is not just about traditional, hanging art – we’re including ephemeral, multimedia and performance art in the series,” Wilson said. Look for news about the video project on the ArtPeers website ArtPeers.org, the produced installments are expected to be live on the site in May.
What will be the markers of success for ArtPeers? “To be really honest, here in Grand Rapids, when there are far fewer emergency fundraising events to help local artists cover expenses for catastrophic health care costs, or basic living expenses for artists living on the edge of financial ruin – then we will know that there are more artists living a balanced creative and economic life and being supported by the greater community,” shared Wilson. “Sustainable like any trade, skill or craft that we value as a society and culture.”
Erin Wilson believes that valuing local artists begins with the local artists themselves, how they speak about and value their work and how they support their peers.