And for the first time in the six-year history of the Grand Rapids-based competition, she will also be splitting the Juried Grand Prize — another $200,00 awarded by jury of art experts — with a fellow exhibitor.
She's the first person to win both prizes, and her $300,000 total prize is the largest amount the competition has awarded to any single artist.
Consisting of a 6.5-foot cube with sides of laser-cut birch wood that are illuminated by a lightbulb from within, “Intersections” was on view at the Grand Rapids Art Museum as part of the annual 19-day ArtPrize art show that took place at venues throughout the city. A smaller version of the piece was on display at the Harrison Center in August.
Born in Lahore, Pakistan in 1965, Agha is an associate professor of drawing at the Herron School of Art and Design.
NUVO: Describe the inspiration for this project.
Agha: I went to the Alhambra Palace in Granada, Spain. When I was there I visited the entire complex. It’s a beautiful place which is composed of patterning from the Islamic geometry. When I got back to the United States after my visit, I spent a lot of time thinking about various reasons why I would build something like this and the most important thing was that in Pakistan when I was growing up, I was not very welcome as a woman in public spaces that are mostly considered to be male spaces. And so I decided to create a project that would allow people of all nationalities and sexuality to enter and not be excluded.
NUVO: You were on hand at the Grand Rapids Art Museum where “Intersections” was on view when you witnessed a marriage proposal.
Agha: Yes, I was standing on one side of the room, and I saw it happen at the back of the room. I was just leaning against the wall, watching it, and then my friend Steve made me walk across and actually introduced me to those people. They were just so excited. It was just lovely.
NUVO: Does this ArtPrize money free you up to do projects that you’ve thought of doing before but didn’t have the material?
Agha: I’ve been thinking about various projects, but as an artist you’re always limited by funding. So I’m very pleased that I received this money so I can continue to build my art practice.