ArtPrize entrant steams to GR from across country

Artist and gallery owner shoots for $250,000 prize 

Rockford resident Carol Black couldn’t be more proud of her son Stephano Sutherlin, who, despite living in Little Rock, Ark., couldn’t pass up the change to compete in ArtPrize. Sutherlin, who owns his own art gallery, Little Rock 17, has submitted “Steam to Diesel” as his ArtPrize entry. The three-piece work is a painted history of Michigan’s locomotives.

Sutherlin began his career by joining a traveling circus, then explored the world in the Navy, and is a professional courtroom sketch artist. He grew up the son of a train conductor. His unique background and lifelong interest in trains compelled him to create “Steam to Diesel.”

Sutherland’s wife, Ashley Polk Sutherland, said the process of creating the work led to long interaction with Sutherland and his father. “It was a great bonding experience,” she described.

She said she believes the work will speak to a great many people. “There is a fascination with trains by people of all ages,” she said. Her father in law, especially, is one to admit he doesn’t understand or appreciate abstract art. This he loves.

Polk-Sutherland said she and her husband were thrilled to hear about the first ArtPrize last year and would have loved to participate then. Unfortunately they were unable due to deaths in their respective families. This year they look forward to coming home to Grand Rapids to see it all first hand.

“ArtPrize is unique because it is juried by the public in venues throughout the city,” said Polk-Sutherlin. “Some people call it American Idol for artists.”

Last year the contest brought 250,000 visitors to Grand Rapids to view pieces created by artists from over 40 states and 20 countries.

“It’s a huge honor for me to participate in one of the largest art contests in the world,” said Stephano. “The ArtPrize experience so far has been amazing. I have met incredible people and organizations through my research, including C&O Historical Museum in Virginia and CSX Railways, who bought C&O in the 1980s.”

The three-canvas piece “Steam to Diesel” was inspired by Stephano’s love of trains and travel. His hope is the tryptich will invoke a sense of nostalgia in combination with the history of early train life in Michigan.

“I’m looking forward to sharing my childhood memories of railway travel through my painted version of locomotives to the many Grand Rapids visitors this fall,” said Stephano.

“Steam to Diesel” will be displayed at Independent Bank, 86 Monroe, September 17 through October 9, when Art Prize ends. It can also be viewed on Facebook, “Steam to Diesel” by artist Stephano Sutherlin.

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