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AQ Alumnus and Faculty Member Chris LaPorte Wins ArtPrize 2010

By: Jacqui DeFouw '11
Editor's Note: The interview/article below was done on Tuesday, Oct. 5, before Chris was announced as the winner of ArtPrize.
Chris LaPorte '96

Chris LaPorte '96, Adjunct Assistant Professor of Art, began teaching at Aquinas in 2004 at the request of then department chair Kurt Kaiser and is currently teaching Drawing for Non-Majors at AQ. Chris is also an artist participating in this year’s ArtPrize competition and he has made it to the coveted Top Ten. Chris’ ArtPrize piece, "Cavalry - American Officers 1921," is on display at the Grand Rapids Art Museum. It is a life-size pencil drawing inspired by a photo Chris found at an antique store in Grand Rapids.


“I burned through at least eighty pencils,” he said of his experience drawing the piece. To know exactly what that amount of pencils looks like, visit Chris’ profile at - there’s a photo.

The sheer size of Chris’ piece makes it interesting. “I chose to make it that big so that the gentleman in the front row would be life size,” Chris said. He added, “I wanted in some way to resurrect these guys.”
Chris’ experience with caricatures helped to inspire the detail seen in the faces of the men in this portrait. He said that he “wanted to round out their story” by adding the extra emphasis on their expressions. “I tried to heighten [individuality of character] with detail in expression,” Chris said.
Chris says being a part of the Aquinas community helped him through the ArtPrize process. “Just logistically, I was able to put the drawing together here in the AMC,” he said. Chris said that the only wall he could find large enough to finish the drawing in one piece was in Bukowski Chapel, on campus. “So they gave me a studio for a few days,” he added with a smile.
He said that logistic help was just a part of the support the Aquinas community has given him, “When you feel like you’ve got a group of people cheering for you, it propels you forward.”
Chris is not only a participant in ArtPrize; he is also a big fan. “It’s phenomenal,” he said. “It’s beneficial in so many profound ways.” He added, “It inspires a public discourse about art.” He said that even though there are people who would criticize “the spectacle of it,” ArtPrize brings the community together and “at the end of the day people are more excited about creativity” so the benefits far outweigh the detriments.
Chris and his piece have been receiving plenty of attention from the Grand Rapids community and beyond. He was recently mentioned on the Today Show by host Kathy Lee Gifford who had seen his piece on a recent visit to Grand Rapids. “That kind of attention is unbelievable,” Chris said, “and at the same time it’s pretty surreal.”
He isn’t all about the attention. He added that, “part of the reason I became an artist is so that the spotlight is more on what I do than me.” He referred to his creation of art as “a private thing” and said this new attention can be very overwhelming.
Once ArtPrize is finished, "Cavalry," along with thousands of other ArtPrize pieces will be removed from their current locations, but Chris has some hopes for where his piece will end up. “I would like to see it remain in a place where people can openly view it,” he said.
Chris wanted to make sure that the Aquinas community knew that his piece is “completely a collective effort.” He added, “I can only take credit for so much.” And there is one final message Chris would like to send out to everyone in the Aquinas College community, “thanks for all the support,” he added.