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Local artist Emily Kennerk takes a win from ArtPrize Pitch Night

Her interactive installation "Whisper" pulls together sound and reaction

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A small scale version of Kennerk's piece. - ARTPRIZE
  • ArtPrize
  • A small scale version of Kennerk's piece.

Local artist, Emily Kennerk, took home a $5,000 grant and the chance to be apart of the number one ticketed (per day) art event in the world, ArtPrize.

Wednesday, five Indianapolis artists got to pitch what they would do with the cash and 7,000 square feet of gallery space. The wrench in the works was they only had five minutes to convince the panel of five judges that their concept was worth it. While the grant and the gallery space are a wet dream for most artists, the real prize is the number of eyes that land on their work if chosen.

ArtPrize draws over 400,000 people each day to invade Grand Rapids for 19 days in the hopes of seeing all of the installations spread around town. Last year, Indy's own Anila Quayuum Agha won the juried and public portions of the festival, hailing a total of $300,000 in prizes from it. This year she sat on the judges panel for the Indianapolis selection.

To draw in more artists, ArtPrize has started hosting “pitch nights” like the one in Indy as a showcase to offer grant money to whoever gave the best proposal. All in the hopes of giving their ideas a proper home at the festival. The idea of home was one of the catalysts for Kennerk's piece.

“You know when you get to a point in life where you just want to go home?” she laughs. Recently Kennerk moved back to Indianapolis from Las Vegas, when she returned her wood and metal shop of 20 or more years was no longer available.

“When you are an artist you identify with your studio,” says Kennerk.

Coming home to find what you expect to be there is like walking up the stairs in the dark and that gut twisting feeling when you take the last step only only to have your foot hit hard on the top landing, sending a twinge through your stomach — only, you know, a thousand times worse. Without a studio she felt displaced and that her work needed to take on a new form. She started to examine that knee jerk reaction. “I was really interested in that autonomic response of how we jump to things or respond automatically.”

Her proposed installation is a 70 foot table, covered in white dinnerware, that responds to the sound waves of someone whispering into a microphone. The waves are so strong that the dishes rattle themselves right off the table. She is going to let the dishes keep pilling up on the floor but replacing each set that falls.

The kicker is that Kennerk has NEVER worked with sound before. That's a damn good first.

“Sound in itself is a 3 dimensional object ... for me it was really exciting to have this whole other dimension of work that maybe was not my normal tradition,” Kennerk adds. “It's a sound work where you may not understand what is said but you see the automatic response to it. What we say has an impact, even though you think no one is listening.”

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