Art Seen: National

ART PRIZE 2013 // TOP WINNERS ANN LOVELESS & ANNI CROUTER

by Alexandra Kadlec

Since 2009, autumn in Grand Rapids, Michigan has become synonymous with Art Prize, an international art competition that occurs over several weeks in September and October. During this time each year, an influx of artists and visitors from all over the world flock to the city’s downtown, where museums, restaurants, and other public venues become host to submitted works, talks, and other related events.

The competition, decided partly by public vote and partly by a panel composed of art world professionals, gives out a total of $560,000 in cash awards to the top sixteen winning artists. This year, two Michigan natives—Ann Loveless (Frankfort) and Anni Crouter (Flint)—claimed the first and second place public-vote awards, along with $200,000 and $75,000 each, respectively.

Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum, an Art Prize venue. Courtesy Anni Crouter

Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum, an Art Prize venue. Courtesy Anni Crouter

THE SEEN got the opportunity to speak with Loveless and Courter about their winning works, upcoming projects, and the unexpected friendship that the competition brought them.

THE SEEN: Ann, I read that it took you 400 hours to complete Sleeping Bear Dune Lakeshore. That’s quite a time commitment! As an artist, what draws you to the process of quilt making?

ANN LOVELESS: I’ve been drawn to textiles since I was little. I like the texture that fabric gives a work of art. It’s kind of an underrated art form. To really appreciate my works, to capture their textures, you have to look at them up close. Photographs don’t do them justice.

Sleeping Bear Dune Lakeshore (2013), textile, 20 ft wide by 5 ft high, Ann Loveless. Courtesy Steve Loveless

Sleeping Bear Dune Lakeshore (2013), textile, 20 ft wide by 5 ft high, Ann Loveless. Courtesy Steve Loveless

THE SEEN: What is the artistic process like for you?

AL: Similar to an oil painter’s practice, I work from the top down, and then go back and incorporate the details, add layers to the piece. Often I use a photograph of a scene as my guide; it’s not something I adhere to strictly. Like many of my other works, Sleeping Bear Dunes Lakeshore is more of a collage than a depiction of one setting.

In a sense, my process resembles the way that our memories work. We might remember a sunset, the turquoise shade of a lake at the drop-off, or a particular cluster of trees at the edge of the woods. I think of elements that will appeal to the viewer, and then arrange them into my piece.

THE SEEN: Tell us about your ties to northern Michigan. What attracts you to the region? How does the landscape inspire you?

AL: I’ve lived in Michigan my whole life, so obviously I’m partial to the area. I’m always staring at the water up here, studying its movement and the way the sun is reflected off of its surface at different times of the day. In my work, I’ve tried to capture this with metallic threads and shading.

When I’m on a bike ride or walking through the woods, I like to observe the placement of the trees, the paths they make; in winter, how the snow sparkles on their branches. I love the changes that each season in northern Michigan brings to the landscape. All of this inspires me and drives my practice.

THE SEEN: What opportunities has winning first place at Art Prize brought you? What’s next?

AL: Right now, I’m trying to get caught up with work! There’s definitely been a surge in business at my gallery in Beulah, which has been great. This was the biggest monetary prize that a quilt has ever won, so a lot of people in the quilt industry have been in touch to offer their congratulations.

My next vision for another large landscape quilt is to do Picture Rock National Park on Lake Superior. I go up that way a lot and already have some great photographs of the shoreline.

THE SEEN: Anni, this is your first time entering Art Prize. What led you to create and decide to submit Polar Expressed?

ANNI CROUTER: My family and friends have been encouraging me to enter Art Prize for a while now. With Polar Expressed, I wanted to paint something that kids would appreciate (kids are important to the vote), and that would also subtly raise awareness about the importance of wildlife and the dangers of global warming. At the same time, I wanted people to simply enjoy the work purely on an aesthetic level and not have to think about it too deeply.

Scale is important at Art Prize. The public likes to see big, grandiose works. You have to present something that will stand out and grab the viewers’ attention. That’s why I decided to do a three-panel painting of this size—18 feet wide and 4 feet high. I typically paint on fairly large canvases anyways. I’m a pretty small person myself, so maybe this my way of getting heard?

Polar Expressed (2013), acrylic on canvas, 216 in wide by 48 in high, Anni Crouter. Courtesy Anni Crouter

Polar Expressed (2013), acrylic on canvas, 216 in wide by 48 in high, Anni Crouter. Courtesy Anni Crouter

THE SEEN: What has your win and the attendant publicity from Art Prize been like? What are you working on now?

AC: The publicity has been great. It’s really helped with selling my work. I’ve gotten a lot of commissions, mostly wildlife paintings. I’ve also been doing more solo exhibitions since Art Prize. The next one will be at Twisted Fish Gallery in Elk Rapids.

THE SEEN: I spoke with Ann Loveless earlier this week, and she mentioned that the two of you became good friends during Art Prize. That’s nice to hear, given that you were competing against one another! Would you describe the general atmosphere of the event to be one of camaraderie?

AC: Because this was my first year at Art Prize, I’m not sure how it compares to earlier years, but it felt pretty competitive to me. It seemed that artists typically stayed with their piece and didn’t get to know each other all that much.

Ann and I both happened to be exhibiting at the Ford Museum. When the government shutdown occurred and we had to move outside, it became a bonding experience of us. We took turns standing by our works and handing out each other’s cards to give the other person a break. Since then we’ve stayed close. I just had an exhibition in northern Michigan that Ann attended. She was actually asked to submit a piece, but she said, No, this is Anni’s show.


Ann Loveless has been sewing for twenty-five years and making landscape quilts since 2004. Her work can be seen in State of the Art Gallery in Beulah, Gallery Fifty in Traverse City, and Ward and Eis in Petoskey. She received a Clothing & Textile degree from Michigan State University.

Anni Crouter is a painter of architecture, domestic and wild animals, and florals. Her work appears in a number of museums and galleries in the United States and Canada, national and international trade journals, businesses, and private collections. Anni has a degree in Business with a minor in Art from Mott Community College.

Alexandra Kadlec is a freelance writer and editor whose work has appeared in Time Out New York, Chicago Art Magazine, and Chicago DIY Film. She also currently writes for Revue.

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