2013-09-12 / Front Page

Resident pursuing art career via cut cards, ‘ArtPrize’ competition

Vitale chases dream one piece at a time

MANISTIQUE – A former Manistique High School teacher will soon submit her view of the “Land of Opportunity” to the Grand Rapids’ ArtPrize competition. The mosaic piece is created entirely from cut up credit, hotel, gift, and membership cards, and will be displayed in the downstate contest from Sept. 18 until Oct. 6.

After resigning from her position as Spanish teacher earlier this year, Jessica Vitale is now on the road to a career in the arts, honing her skills as she goes. According to Vitale, giving up her teaching job was difficult, but a decision she felt necessary.

“Last year, it was so difficult,” she said. “To try to balance making art for my portfolio … and being that 110 percent teacher I feel like I have to be … just wasn’t happening.

It was a really heartbreaking decision, because these kids are awesome,” she continued. “At the same time, I do have to consider my future as who I am going to be as a person.”


Pioneer Tribune photos Manistique resident Jessica Vitale is shown standing along one of the pieces in her “Land of Opportunity” collection. She will be showcasing the piece in the Grand Rapids’ “ArtPrize” competition later this month. The piece, comprised of old, cut-up credit, gift, hotel, and membership cards, represents Vitale’s idea of a consumer-driven American dream which frequently leads to debt. The landscape in the photo is that of the Grand Rapids river view. Pioneer Tribune photos Manistique resident Jessica Vitale is shown standing along one of the pieces in her “Land of Opportunity” collection. She will be showcasing the piece in the Grand Rapids’ “ArtPrize” competition later this month. The piece, comprised of old, cut-up credit, gift, hotel, and membership cards, represents Vitale’s idea of a consumer-driven American dream which frequently leads to debt. The landscape in the photo is that of the Grand Rapids river view. So Vitale gave up her position, and has been working in her garage – her makeshift studio – since that time.

Using credit cards she began collecting last year, Vitale began planning her ArtPrize piece in February. She started placing pieces of the cut-up cards in April, and placed the last piece in the last week of July. After that, she grouted and cleaned the piece, finishing it with a frame created by her brother.

Many of the card pieces originate from people in the area, Vitale said.

“What I like to do … is keep some names in there, because it kind of reminds me of all the people who partake in helping me get this together,” she explained.

The pieces of the cards tell a bigger story, Vitale said – one that dates back to an art competition in Detroit she once entered. In that competition, entrants were encouraged to focus on America – a theme Vitale interprets differently.

“Going back to the original idea of why people, our ancestors and everyone, started immigrating to the U.S. was the ‘land of opportunity’,” she said. “Our parents tell us, ‘we came here to give us a better life’ … without really realizing you have to go into so much debt, if you’re not from a well-off family, to get to where you want to be.”

Vitale said the cards represent this debt, and expressing not only her own struggle with the American “dream”, but the struggles of those who furnished the cards.

“You’re constantly going into debt,” she said. “The credit cards … are just kind of the symbol of the big picture of how our culture works.”

While Vitale plans to complete more works with card pieces – all part of her “Land of Opportunity” series – she also intends to create a unique portfolio.

“This is one of the things that I’m trying to do – is just get in to bigger shows, push myself as an artist,” she said.

While her eventual goal is to get through graduate school as an art major, Vitale said, for right now, she will be working out of her garage until she can pursue her dream.

“This is definitely where my heart lies – creating, making messages, making statements that I can just share,” she said.

While votes for the ArtPrize competition may only be cast in Grand Rapids, more information about the competition may be found at www.artprize.org.

Return to top