After a lottery, West Prize will change

We weren’t at the West Prize celebration, but someone mentioned to us that Curator Paige West went up on stage and drew the name of the winner out of a cup filled with the 10 finalists’ names on slips of paper. The winner was a little dazed, not sure how to react. He wasn’t the only one who was uncomfortable.

mclellan Departure
Ryan McLennan, Departure. McLennan, one of the 10 West Prize finalists, won the $25,000 additional grand prize in a lottery of sorts.

We called West Collection Director Lee Stoetzel to find out what gives. He said the lottery became a turning point–the prize will change somewhat next year.

Here’s our conversation with Stoetzel:


Us: We heard that the West Prize winner was chosen by pulling a name out of a cup.
Lee: It was my idea.  There were so many great artists this year, it was a way to …(honor all of them). It really didn’t come off well.  It came across as flippant.  … [West] was torn between so many of the artists.  It didn’t translate. It was like telling a joke and no one laughs.

Next year will be different. Maybe there shouldn’t be a grand prize winner. Maybe we’ll just choose the 10. Either we’ll increase the amount, to something like $12,500 each, or we’ll ask the 10 winners to submit a proposal for something they’ve wanted to do and did not have the funding for–or some other kind of proposal.

Us: Will you still call it the West Prize?
Lee: There will still be the West Prize.


The application for the next year already went live., and then before anyone could apply, we took it down and we’ll revise it.

It was strange. Nine people walked away feeling they lost. But they won!

The $25,000– We believe for the next year we’ll do this proposal. It could even be seed money to start a residency program in an artist’s home country.


It’s weird to choose artists for a prize. Some people’s feelings always are hurt. We don’t want to do that the night of the event, the night that is supposed to be celebrating the prize. It forced us quite honestly to rethink and revise.  The big piece will be the same; the application is the same; the final phase will be different.

Us: When will the application go back up?
Lee: The application will go back up some time next week. First and foremost there will be an explanation of how the new process will work.

We did not want to discount Ryan McClellan’s work. The work is excellent.

The grand prize winner will tell about their project at the opening.  And maybe at the end of the year we hope to show the project or a video of the project.

I guess if I’d thought it through a little more, I could have anticipated it. I never thought we’d get such great applicants and have such a difficult time narrowing it down so much. Paige toiled and toiled…the talent pool was so deep.

We hope people will continue to apply.

This year there was a massive change from year one. The applicant pool was more in the vein of what was already collected. We got 200 amazing artists that we never heard of before!