Local artist to make ‘Wish’

Art teacher seeks community’s wishes for $250,000 competition

By: Chris Jackett | Birmingham - Bloomfield Eagle | Published June 15, 2011

 Bloomfield Township resident Heather Kelly stands with her “Twinkle” and triptych “Wish” pieces at the Birmingham Bloomfield Art Center last week.

Bloomfield Township resident Heather Kelly stands with her “Twinkle” and triptych “Wish” pieces at the Birmingham Bloomfield Art Center last week.

Photo by Edward Osinski


BLOOMFIELD TOWNSHIP — Heather Kelly has a wish.

Her wish is that you make a wish so she can finish an art piece titled “Wish” and donate a portion of the winning proceeds to the Make-A-Wish Foundation.

The 39-year-old resident is a participant in the Art Prize two-week art competition Sept. 21 in Grand Rapids. She is in the early stages of collecting wishes to turn a three-panel image of a child into a collection of distorted and condensed words using text from the typed-out wishes she receives.

“I’m interested in the relationship between image and text,” Kelly said. “Text is reversed and not legible. There’s usually also a large word in the background. I’m interested in bringing people in with nostalgia.”

The piece is similar to her “Twinkle” artwork, which placed second in the 2011 Michigan Fine Arts Competition while on display at the Birmingham Bloomfield Art Center. “Wish” will combine digital photography, Adobe Photoshop software, metallic powders and acrylic paint to come together as a piece of art.

“I start with a digital photograph,” Kelly said. “All my work starts with digital photography, and I take it into Photoshop to add text.”

However, since the three-piece canvas for “Wish” covers 9-by-4 feet, there is a lot of space for the contorted text of the community’s wishes to be spread across. Most of the text is so small that it will appear as if it were a simple line to anyone not looking closely.

Kelly, who teaches graphic design, metals and the fundamentals of art at Troy High School, is utilizing the latest technologies to collect wishes for her project. In addition to a submission form on her project’s website, www.artprizewish.com, Kelly set up a Google Voice account where anyone can text (248) 838-WISH and the message will show up in Kelly’s email.

She also went online and taught herself what she needed to know to create a unique quick response code that links to her website. She printed the code on 10,000 business cards she is handing out.

“I started noticing these everywhere, so that’s where I got the idea,” Kelly said. “I’m trying to do all the new ways people communicate.”

Anyone who sends Kelly a wish and provides an address will be mailed a postcard with an image of the final artwork on it.

Although it is pending approval for mass use, Kelly created her own Apple app where people can submit wishes.

She is also spreading the word by handing out 1,000 silver-plated necklaces that spell “Wish” in wire and have a crystal dotting the “i.” She’s made about 100 so far and handed out a third of them.

Her artwork will be on display at Open Concept Gallery in Grand Rapids during the two-week competition.

“There’s 150,000 visitors through the gallery I’m exhibiting in, so I’m hoping to get about half of those,” Kelly said. “I’ve spent thousands on the project. I’ve talked to a company that does electronic billboards.”

Kelly said she is considering renting space on an electronic billboard just outside Grand Rapids so people will see it as they take the freeway into town.

Eric Daigh, a 34-year-old Traverse City resident who finished third at the original Art Prize in 2009 with a trio of pushpin displays, said the contest is quite the experience, but can be a double-edged sword for artists.

“The experience was cool and very gratifying to do as well as we did,” Daigh said. “I think it can be a really positive experience, but I think there’s a lot of high-caliber work that goes overlooked.”

Daigh said some people get an over-inflated ego from having success at the event, and different art communities have mixed reactions toward participants.

“I think it’s been frustrating to me to have that hang around my neck. Having said that, the money was great,” said Daigh, who won $50,000.

Although Kelly is busy teaching five classes at Troy High and raising a nearly 2-year-old daughter at home, she said she is doing what she enjoys by continuing to put her art education to good use.

The top prize in the Art Prize competition is $250,000, the largest cash prize in the world for such an art competition, Kelly said. Nearly $500,000 in total prizes are available, with fourth through 10th places earning $7,000 apiece.

“My hope is to generate enough interest in the piece that it could be a contender for an award, in which case I would donate a percent to the Make-A-Wish Foundation,” Kelly said.

She said she would donate half of her winnings, after taxes, to the Make-A-Wish Foundation if she won an award.

For more information on the Art Prize competition, visit www.artprize.org.

For those who can’t make the drive to Grand Rapids, Kelly said she’d also be entering three pieces in the Community House’s “Our Town” exhibit, which will include “Twinkle,” as well as new pieces titled “Sugar” and “Tutu.” The local exhibit opens Sept. 28.

For more information on Kelly’s projects, visit www.heatherkellyart.com.