Graphic Design Graduate a Big Winner at ArtPrize 2022

A mural created for this year’s ArtPrize competition by MSU College of Arts & Letters graduate Maddison Chaffer was chosen as one of the winners of the juried awards.

Chaffer, who earned a BFA in Graphic Design from Michigan State University in 2020, is this year’s Installation juror winner. The 2022 ArtPrize winners were announced during the closing awards ceremony on Sept. 30.

Smiling young woman sits on a blue power lift machine in front of a mural featuring animals and nature.
Maddison Chaffer with the completed “Seeking a Pleasant Peninsula” mural. (Photo credit: Jonas Quirin)

As the winner of the Installation category, Chaffer will receive $10,000. Jurors selected one winner and one honorable mention in each of five categories with the winners receiving $10,000 and the honorable mentions receiving $2,500.

Chaffer’s winning mural, titled “Seeking a Pleasant Peninsula,” features images of Michigan’s ecology, including Michigan’s state fish, the brook trout, as well as a lake sturgeon, a loon, a white pine, plant life, and prominent geographical landmarks, including Pictured Rocks, Arch Rock, and Turnip Rock. The mural was inspired by Chaffer’s love of nature and conservation.

“Our goal was to raise awareness of current conservation efforts going on in Grand Rapids and to demonstrate the compatibility between art and activism.”

“Our goal was to raise awareness of current conservation efforts going on in Grand Rapids and to demonstrate the compatibility between art and activism,” Chaffer said. “By highlighting Michigan’s ecology in the midst of one of our primary urban centers, this mural will be able to engage viewers who may not otherwise get the chance to experience Michigan’s natural wonders.

“Though I can’t claim that this mural alone will inspire wide-scale ecological reform, I firmly believe in the power of art to, at the very least, spark curiosity. Curiosity lays the foundation for casual interest, which has the potential to blossom into a profound appreciation. From this deeper appreciation for our natural landscape, my partners and I hope that our community will find a newfound commitment to preserving this one-of-a-kind state that we call home.”

Young woman paints mural with a paint roller in hand while standing on a blue power lift machine.
Maddison Chaffer works on the mural, which took seven days to complete.

As a lifelong Michigander, avid forager, and amateur survivalist, the mural is highly personal to Chaffer.

“Even in my lifetime, I’ve seen the forests in which I’ve grown up change due to human activity. Many of my favorite elms have been replaced by condos; one of my secret creeks has been bisected by a parking lot,” Chaffer said. “I’m committed to preserving my nearby forests in my own activities by employing sustainable foraging practices and adhering to a strict leave-no-trace policy, but there’s only so much that I can do individually in a world of corporate greed and short-sighted legislation. For this reason, I hope that my art can play a part in inspiring fellow Michiganders to collective conservationist action.”

The mural was completed in conjunction with the Pleasant Peninsula: Art & Activism Fair, an event Chaffer coordinated with Erika Collins.

“I hope that my art can play a part in inspiring fellow Michiganders to collective conservationist action.”

“We’re grateful that the ArtPrize jury took our event, the Pleasant Peninsula: Art & Activism Fair, into consideration as they came to their decisions,” Chaffer said. “With over 20 local artists, a dozen environmental organizations, four keynote speakers, four local bands, a ribbon cutting for the newly installed mural, and over a thousand people in attendance, our community made it clear that preserving our native ecology is a top priority here in Grand Rapids.”

While the painting process for the mural took seven days to complete, Chaffer worked to make this project a reality for nearly two years. The mural is located at 140 Monroe Center in downtown Grand Rapids.

An audience of pedestrians watch a young woman painting a mural while standing on a blue power lift machine.
People stop to watch as Maddison Chaffer works on the “Seeking a Pleasant Peninsula” mural.

“Because of the mural’s central location in downtown Grand Rapids and, in a broader sense, its centrality in the state of Michigan, we hope a fascination with our state’s evolutionary history spreads quickly among passersby,” Chaffer said. “In the long run, we anticipate that passing interest will bloom into profound gratitude, which will, in turn, inspire future ecological conservation.”

This year’s ArtPrize event ran from Sept. 15-Oct. 2. However, Chaffer’s mural will live on for much longer and can still be seen on the east side of a building off Monroe Center, across from Rosa Parks Circle.

“In the long run, we anticipate that passing interest will bloom into profound gratitude, which will, in turn, inspire future ecological conservation.”

This is the ninth mural Chaffer has created in Grand Rapids, Michigan, and Chaffer has only been creating murals since 2019. However, this isn’t the first of Chaffer’s murals to receive an award. In 2020, Chaffer was the People’s Choice winner for the mural they created at Brewery Vivant in Grand Rapids on a cylindrical silo as part of the inaugural AlePrize competition held that year. The Beer City Brewers Guild created AlePrize in 2020 in response to ArtPrize being canceled that year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

For more information on Chaffer’s murals and other work, visit the Maddison Chaffer website.