After 19 days with hundreds of thousands of visitors viewing 1,453 entries from 44 countries at 171 venues here in Grand Rapids, 380,119 votes were cast to determine which entries were the best of the best! Alas, I was not among that starry group, but I can definitely take my hat off to the winner of the public vote, James Mellick, whose entry was called “Wounded Warrior Dogs,” an exhibit designed to raise awareness and support for vets using wooden carvings of several canine warriors who were wounded in war. The other (juried) $200,000 grand prize was given to Stacey Kirby for her “The Bureau of Personal Belonging,” which was a three-part installation hearkening back to 1968, interrogating visitors about their views on sexual identity and gender in order to determine if they were “valid” members of society. Ummm. Despite the fact that there are now fifty-eight gender options for Facebook users these days, under 2% of the population self-report as anything other than heterosexual, so I’m not sure why gender studies have become all the rage on college campuses across our continent, but I’m certain that how we answer questions about gender is not the proper litmus test for our validity as members of society. It’s my theory that if we are human, we are valid. Nevertheless, we are called to be law-abiding, not law-breaking, and countries differ widely on their laws, which (whether or not anybody’s willing to admit it) are all based on moral ethics. What is moral and what is not? What is so immoral that the society is willing to outlaw it? Tough issues, and obviously highly charged with emotion, as we each defend our ideas of right and wrong based on whatever makes us believe this or that is right or wrong. Right? And, those issues really never disappear. As William Faulkner wrote, “The past is never dead. It’s not even past.” When Alan and I left a paneled interview of the artists that exhibited at Meijer Garden, I whispered in his ear, “Well, I have no worries of ever winning a juried award!” The popular vote is totally unpredictable and as capricious as people, but the juried vote is much more predictable and follows distinct patterns. If you’re after a juried prize for 2017, I have a few tips for you! Tips one and two: be sure your work is modern art, not traditional, and use recycled waste. The singular contestant who was ranked in the top twenty for both the popular and juried votes was a man who gathered dead day lily stems from ditches around Grand Rapids and lined them up in such a way that they cast interesting shadows on a wall. Clever, and his play with light was creative, but when interviewed, it sounded like he came up with his plan and executed the project in a day or two after arriving in GR, and the fact that he was a finalist in both categories was a bit deflating for those of us who spent months or years preparing our exhibits. Tip three: you’ll get the most positive attention if you can come up with some creative way to make a philosophical statement that reflects support for gender diversity. Otherwise, (tip four) come to ArtPrize for the joy of it! Create to give, not to take, and like Eric Liddell, take delight in sensing God’s pleasure in what you’re doing. “I returned, and saw under the sun, that the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, neither yet bread to the wise, nor yet riches to men of understanding, nor yet favour to men of skill; but time and chance happeneth to them all” (Ecclesiastes 9:11).