SXSW vet heads north to helm ArtPrize 2.0

ArtPrize 2.0 Executive Director Catlin Whitington. Courtesy photo.

A longstanding, open-to-everyone art competition has rebranded and announced an Executive Director. Catlin Whitington will helm ArtPrize 2.0, bringing a wealth of experience to Grand Rapids.

Currently the vice president of campus operations for Austin’s (Texas) Long Center for the Performing Arts, Whitington’s claim to fame is his tenure as the planning manager for the South by Southwest (SXSW) Conference and Festivals in Austin, Texas. 

“ArtPrize remains unique in the art world and has become an enduring cultural touchstone for Grand Rapids and for Grand Rapidians,” said Whitington. “My role is to work with the community to innovate and build on that legacy and to grow ArtPrize to its full potential as an immersive community experience, cultural inspiration and economic force.”

Whitington’s role at SXSW required planning, logistics and execution of the event and included negotiation of agreements between agencies, venues and production companies for engagements with global talent and brands.  During Whitington’s time at SXSW, the festival saw a marked increase in attendance which led to an uptick for Austin’s local economy– from $110 million in 2010 to more than $350 million. 

Whitington also served as chairperson of the Austin Tourism Commission from 2018 to 2021, is a founding member of Music Makes Austin, a public policy advocacy organization and currently serves as an advisor to the Austin Hotel and Lodging Association.

ArtPrize 2.0 is a collaboration of three downtown institutions:  Downtown Grand Rapids Inc., Kendall College of Art and Design and the City of Grand Rapids and is set to take place in September 2023 with new energy, new collaborations, and a slate of cultural experiences. 

“Our new executive director, Catlin Whitington, is the right person at the right time to move ArtPrize 2.0 forward,” said Mark Washington, Grand Rapids city manager and ArtPrize 2.0 steering committee chairperson. “Catlin’s work with SXSW and The Long Center in Austin, Texas, are exactly the type of event-based, distinctive, culture-building experiences we were looking for to build an enduring future for ArtPrize 2.0 here in Grand Rapids.”


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