ArtPrize 2014: Meet the BCBSM Artists

Julie Bitely

| 3 min read

Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan is proud to play host to two exceptionally talented ArtPrize artists at our Grand Rapids headquarters, 86 Monroe Center NW. Located in the heart of ArtPrize action, the artwork is displayed in our front windows, which you might recognize as the old Steketee’s department store display windows. Meet our artists here and stop by our downtown location as you’re out and about enjoying the festivities to see their beautiful work. Kristen Thornton: LakeView I and II For this artist, drawing and painting gave her a strong voice. Thornton grew up with and continues to have a stuttering condition. She’s currently the leader of the Grand Rapids chapter of the National Stuttering Association. She holds a bachelor’s degree in Health Information Management and works for Spectrum Health.
Thornton said growing up, stuttering often made her feel self-conscious. She was sometimes ostracized by her peers because of her condition. Art gave her a way to communicate. Now she’s an active public speaker, presenting talks about art and spirituality along with educational outreach opportunities about stuttering. Although she still has bad days when it comes to stuttering, Thornton said her love for art and passion for teaching people about stuttering are both greater than her fear of talking. Thornton’s style is reflective of some of her favorite artists – Claude Monet, Henri Matisse, and Paul Cezanne. Her ArtPrize entry depicts two distinct Lake Michigan scenes drawn from pictures she’s taken at sites in Muskegon and Frankfort. The artwork was created using pastels on sanded paper. She’s entered work in five of the six ArtPrize competitions to date. Thornton said she loves the energy of ArtPrize and the way it draws in people who might not consider themselves well-versed when it comes to the art world. Three years ago, she won a trip for two to Paris through a drawing sponsored by an ArtPrize venue. She and her fiance were able to see some of her art heroes’ work live and in person. “ArtPrize has been very good to me,” she said.
Mark Dunning: Abstract Formation This Grand Rapids resident holds a bachelor’s degree in studio art, with a minor in art history, from Aquinas College. He currently serves as a substitute art teacher for the Grand Rapids Public Schools. For his 2014 ArtPrize entry, Dunning applied acrylic paint to a prepared creative edge canvas and applied a finishing coat of acrylic gloss varnish. He said the abstract style is typical of his work and reflects the way he thinks. It also forces the person looking at the art to draw their own conclusions about its meaning. “It gives the viewer something they can think about,” he said. If he were to win prize money for his entry, Dunning said he would likely put it back into his art in the form of signing up for continuing classes and purchasing more supplies. He’s a fan of the open art competition and what it does for the city of Grand Rapids. “I like the exposure it gives artists,” he said.

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