Goings-On at ArtPrize: A Q&A With Diana Shpungin

Diana Shpungin's work at ArtPrize. Image courtesy the artist.


ArtPrize 2015 is the seventh iteration of the annual art competition that features hundreds of artists from all over the world vying for hundreds of thousands of dollars in prize money. It also takes over enough local venues in its host city of Grand Rapids, Michigan—162 spaces are involved, according to this year’s count, within a mere three square miles—that one wonders if it’s possible for much else to go on in the same town at the same time.

At any rate, now that ArtPrize Seven is about halfway through its 19-day duration, and while so many hefty award sums are still up for grabs—winners will be announced on October 9th—we thought it would be a good time to track down a few NYC artists who are over there exhibiting, networking, competing and, most likely, getting very little sleep.

Below is our exchange with Diana Shpungin. Here is our previous post with Judith Braun. Check back with us soon for our conversation with Tamara Kostianovsky.

How and when did you get involved with ArtPrize 2015?

I have admired the Grand Rapids-based organization SiTE:LAB for some time. They do really fantastic, ambitious, renegade projects. I met with SiTE:LAB’s Director Paul Amenta early in 2015, and he told me about the Rumsey Street Project and all the abandoned structures they had available. We then conceived how to make Drawing Of A House (Triptych) possible. The project is up through the spring of 2016 and opened during ArtPrize. ArtPrize coinciding with the project’s opening was a nice opportunity for the broader public’s engagement, and for a larger audience in Grand Rapids to engage with the arts.

What were some of the biggest challenges in planning and executing your work for the show? Did you meet your own expectations?

Because of the painstaking nature of my project—completely hand-covering a house in graphite pencil, as well as nine frame-by-frame hand-drawn animations—it required an enormous amount of organization, labor, time, technology and skill. SiTE:LAB was very resourceful, and I also received a few grants that partially supported the project. I am truly delighted with the project’s outcome, and it may have even surpassed my expectations. I am indeed a Virgo, so organization was key to make it all happen, as well as the many fantastic countless staff, volunteers and community members who helped make it possible!

Can you name some other artists whose work you’ve discovered or come to know better thanks to ArtPrize? Who would be on your short list for an award—aside from yourself, of course!

I especially liked three other projects. These all had visual, emotive and a strong conceptual impact. State of Exception, by Richard Barnes, Amanda Krugliak and Jason De León, at Sitelab; Relocations, by Filippo Tagliati, also at Sitelab; and The Last Supper, by Julie Green at The KCAD gallery.

What has kept you busier at ArtPrize, making your artwork, looking at the artwork of others, networking or answering journalists’ questions (wink)?

Most definitely making the artwork. There was not much time for anything else. But now it is a pleasure to speak to interested journalists like yourself.

What do you think about Grand Rapids? Anything you found there that you wish we had back in NYC?

I think GR is a great town. The arts community is small so everyone really knows each other, and it’s quite easy to meet everyone rather quickly. Its design and furniture history has always interested me, the housing stock is lovely, the people are very friendly, and parking is readily available. If I could, I’d perhaps take the parking availability back to NYC with me. (Yes, I occasionally drive in NYC, don’t judge me.)

What else is on your horizon this year and into 2016? Exhibits, fairs, catalogues?

We are now working on an extensive book for Drawing Of A House (Triptych) that will include an essay by Caryn Coleman—curator, writer, horror theorist and Senior Film Programmer at Nitehawk Cinema. Also, I’m thinking greatly about various permutations of the project. It is up through the spring, so stay tuned.

Diana Shpungin is @diediediana on Instagram and @dianashpungin on Twitter. Here is her personal website.

Paul D’Agostino is @postuccio on Instagram and Twitter.

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