Pitch Night Louisville winner Leticia Bajuyo's concept, "Gaze-bo(ught)"
Pitch Night Louisville winner Leticia Bajuyo’s concept, “Gaze-bo(ught)”

Area artists duked it out for the title of ArtPrize‘s Pitch Night Louisville champion at 21c Museum Hotel, but instead of an air of rivalry or combativeness, there was nothing but love of art and vision. Hanover College professor and Kentucky-based artist Leticia Bajuyo was awarded the grand prize, which includes a $5,000 grant and an opportunity to display her new work at the Grand Rapids, Mich., art show.

Leticia Bajuyo
Leticia Bajuyo

The event began Wednesday night with opening remarks by ArtPrize executive director Christian Gaines, who explained to the audience what exactly sets his art show apart from all others and makes it so special to witness for both artists and spectators.

ArtPrize — which runs 19 days each fall in Grand Rapids — is the world’s most attended public art event in the world, attracting more than 23,000 each day. During the international contemporary art competition, nearly 1,500 artists invade just about every venue available in the medium-sized Michigan town. We’re not just talking art galleries, but office spaces, bars, restaurants, hotel lobbies, parks, police stations, laundromats and car lots. If there’s an open storefront or a blank wall, it will be filled with art.

The call for artists is completely open — basically anyone over the age of 18 can participate if they follow the process of signing up and connecting with a venue. More than $500,000 is awarded through two grand prizes (voted on by a jury and the public) and eight category awards.

According to Gaines, the show completely takes over the city — think Derby times 1,000 — and art and discussion of art is everywhere. Think about having 400,000 art enthusiasts invade three square miles of downtown for about three straight weeks, and you get the idea.

A scene from a previous ArtPrize in Grand Rapids, Mich. | Courtesy of ArtPrize
A scene from a previous ArtPrize in Grand Rapids, Mich. | Courtesy of ArtPrize

Which brings us to Pitch Night Louisville, where artists Leticia Bajuyo, Cynthia Norton, Valerie Sullivan Fuchs, Andrea Alonso Salinas, and duo Mary Carothers and Sue Wrbican presented their ideas in five minutes or less for the outdoor space called Lyon Square, an amphitheater in Grand Rapids situated next to the Grand River.

Both Norton and Fuchs tied their pitches to the history of the town, once known as “Furniture City,” and played off the use of wood and reclaimed furniture. Norton’s main concept, titled “Simple Gifts,” involved a large pine cone that would play old Shaker music. And Fuchs envisioned a large tree as the centerpiece, one she would create out of reclaimed wood and furniture and that others could add to.

Another highlight was Carothers and Wrbican’s vision of a ghostly sailboat they would affix to the railing, which would symbolize the past and the passage of time. The lightweight structure would move along with the wind and also be somewhat transparent.

Ultimately, however, Bajuyo’s concept of a playful, art-inside-art gazebo she titled “Gaze-bo(ught)” won over judges Alice Gray Stites (21c Museum director), Chris Radtke (co-owner of Zephyr Gallery), Chris Reitz (director of UofL’s Hite Art Institute), Daniel Pfalzgraf (curator of Carnegie Center for Art & History), and Joey Yates (associate curator of Kentucky Museum of Art & Craft).

Chris Reitz, Daniel Pfalzgraf, Chris Radtke, Leticia Bajuyo, Alice Gray Stites and Joey Yates | Courtesy of ArtPrize
Chris Reitz, Daniel Pfalzgraf, Chris Radtke, Leticia Bajuyo, Alice Gray Stites and Joey Yates | Courtesy of ArtPrize

Bajuyo’s piece will incorporate a bright pink gazebo, reminiscent of a jewel-shaped ring pop, perched upon an Astroturf lawn in the center of Lyon Square. Inside the gazebo will be a smaller version of the gazebo, and the pattern will continue ad infinitum. She’ll also incorporate a merchant cart that’ll sell treats and swag, not to make a buck but to connect the conflicting realties of commerce, trade and contemporary art.

“The size and scale of shrinking objects make us feel both controlled and in control, vast and independent while being both small and introspective simultaneously,” explained Bajuyo, who has created similar pieces for KMAC and galleries across the country.

Stites presented Bajuyo as the winner after a 15-minute break, and said of her work, “The playful colors will be a beacon drawing visitors to Lyon Square, where they will dive deep into a contemplation of not only the work but an interior contemplation of both the historic site and the context of ArtPrize.”

ArtPrize 2016 will take place Sept. 21-Oct. 9 in Grand Rapids, Mich. For details and more information, click here.

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Sara Havens
Sara Havens is the Culture Editor at Insider Louisville, known around town as the Bar Belle (barbelleblog.com). She's a former editor of LEO Weekly and has written for Playboy and The Alcohol Professor. Havens is the author of two books: "The Bar Belle" and "The Bar Belle Vol. 2."