5×5…haters goona hate, but sometimes with good reasonPosted 27 January 2011 by Nick
This morning Rick DeVos, the mastermind behind ArtPrize and heir to the Amway fortune announced his new venture, 5×5 Night. The idea behind it is that anyone with an idea, be it entrepreneurial, artistic, a community project, whatever, presents their proposal and a jury votes on it. The winner, or winners are awarded $5000. Upon first glance, there is certainly nothing controversial here. But the announcement, and the ensuing conversation has been just that.
Let me state up front that I don’t intend to use this post to do an in-depth study of things that the DeVos family has been connected to that I personally find objectionable. You can go on Wikipedia and read more about that yourself if you’re interested. But please know, from ties to war profiteers, connections to anti-homosexual groups, and pretty much the entire business model of Amway, I find plenty in the family’s history to object to.
That being said, I think 5×5 is a pretty good thing, just as I think ArtPrize is. However, I still think it’s worthy to critique some aspects of it. First and foremost, that it is not an original idea. As the feature story in Rapid Growth Media (who broke the news of 5×5) points out, the group Sunday Soup has been doing pretty much the same thing for nearly a year, just on a smaller scale. I have attended several of the Sunday Soup events and found them to be great community gatherings. They are often sparsely attended and the money given to the winners is not a lot. But the people presenting are always passionate about the work they are pursuing.
As someone who roots for the little guy, which Sunday Soup definitely is, my fear is that it will be swept away by 5×5. I understand the laws of the market and if Sunday Soup can’t compete then that is on them. However it still saddens me that so few participated in a small community event, but people are getting all worked up by DeVos’ newest announcement.
The most interesting aspect of this announcement however, seems to be the community’s reaction. Twitter has been abuzz all day with varying opinions of 5×5, and DeVos’s involvement in it. While I think honest critique often gets confused with “whining”, people are undoubtably going to be skeptical of anything that contains the name of our city’s most powerful family. As one tweeter (who maintains a private account, hence I will not link to it directly) put it to me:
The point is, if this story didn’t contain the D-word, nobody would be saying that. And you know it.
I don’t know Rick DeVos and don’t know what his political beliefs are. His ventures thus far have been largely apolitical, and been more entrepreneurial. However he bears the burden of coming from one of the most elite families in the country, and who also have deep ties to far-right causes. No matter how many cool things he does, even if they are beneficial to our city, he will have to carry that burden. It is our responsibility as citizens and consumers to critique and question the elites of our community, even if their work appears to be nothing but beneficial.
- Post Title: 5×5…haters goona hate, but sometimes with good reason
- Date Posted: 27 January 2011
- Author: Nick
- Filed As: Grand Rapids
- Tags: 5X5 Night, ArtPrize, Rick DeVos, Sunday Soup
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