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Ferris’ Digital Animation and Game Design Program Enters ArtPrize

Digital Animation and Game Design

GRAND RAPIDS – Students, faculty and alumni of Ferris State University’s Digital Animation and Game Design Program have collaborated on a multi-screen computer simulation of a 1900s-era Lake Michigan steamer and entered it in ArtPrize.

“Northern Bend” is on display at Grand Rapids Community College’s Spectrum Theater during the international art exhibition and competition that runs through Sunday, Oct. 7 in Grand Rapids.

The piece is among 1,517 entered in ArtPrize 2012, which will award $560,000 in prizes, including $360,000 by public vote and $200,000 in juried awards.

“ArtPrize is a great opportunity for us in Digital Animation and Game Design,” said program coordinator David Baker. “It allows us to interact with the public in a one-on-one forum displaying our artwork.”

“Northern Bend” features a captain standing on a simulated ship’s bridge and steering his steamer down a fictitious Michigan river to the city of Northern Bend. The captain cruises past lakeshore businesses of the era, seeing slices of life from the turn of the 20th century, and navigates through a busy harbor avoiding other ships and obstacles. He sets a course for Lake Michigan, where he encounters a beautiful sunset but soon experiences fog and rough seas. Careful navigation determines whether he clears the fog or collides with another vessel and sinks, becoming one of 1,500 documented Great Lakes Shipwrecks. 

The entry’s voting code is 53258. All proceeds from any award would go toward the DAGD scholarship.

Following ArtPrize, the piece will be part of the “Great Lakes Shipwreck” exhibit opening in November at the Grand Rapids Public Museum, in tandem with the “Titanic” exhibit scheduled to open in 2013. Students who created the entry are collecting comments from ArtPrize visitors and may integrate some of the ideas, Baker said.

“While it would be wonderful to win ArtPrize, our real goal is to ‘Beta test’ ‘Northern Bend’ in a public environment,” Baker said. “This venue will be similar to what we will have at the Grand Rapids Public Museum. With public feedback, we can improve navigation and gameplay and get an ‘on-the-ground’ perspective from users ranging from age 8 to 80.”

Ferris’ Grand Rapids-based DAGD program, started in 2004, has been ranked among the nation’s best schools for video game design by the Princeton Review. More than 200 students are enrolled.

Ferris and its Kendall College of Art and Design are sponsors of ArtPrize, created in 2009 by social media entrepreneur Rick DeVos, who was awarded an Honorary Doctorate of Business and Industry from Ferris in May.

Kendall is one of 161 venues participating in the event, which attracts hundreds of thousands of people to Grand Rapids. Kendall is hosting 13 artist entries in its building at 17 Fountain St. and across the street at the newly-renovated Federal Building. As one of seven ArtPrize exhibition centers, Kendall also offers voter registration and merchandise.

Kendall also sponsors the ArtPrize Speaker Series, which opens with filmmaker John Waters on Tuesday, Sept. 25. Other speakers include artist Theaster Gates (Thursday, Sept. 27), New York Magazine art critic Jerry Saltz (Monday, Oct. 1), Alison Gass, curator at the Eli and Edythe Broad Art Museum at Michigan State University (Tuesday, Oct. 2) and artist Elaine Tin Nyo (Wednesday, Oct. 3).