GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — Not all ArtPrize entries are simply exercises in aesthetics; in fact, many of them contain multitudes of meaning.
One entry this year tackles a particularly heavy issue— the negative implications of Michigan's no fault auto insurance reform bill that was passed in 2019.
'We Can't Wait', by artist Christina Corvette Wright, spotlights those injured in catastrophic auto crashes who are now struggling to access quality medical care following the most recent round of no fault auto law changes that went into effect at the start of July.
“I really feel honored that all these people trusted me with their stories, to tell them,” Wright told FOX 17 Monday afternoon.
The installation consists of 11 wheelchairs, spread out near trees and benches along the east banks of the Grand River.
Each chair represents a different person— each of them a survivor of a catastrophic auto crash, each of them now struggling to obtain the medical care they need to survive and thrive.
“My intent behind this was to portray them as people first, the chair second... The chair is just their mode of transportation.”
Under the new law, any medical service not already covered under our federal Medicare law, which includes in-home caregivers and transportation to medical services, will now only be reimbursed by insurance companies at 55 percent of what they were back in 2019. The law also caps the number of hours that family members can provide care to just 56 hours a week.
David St. Amant acted as a model for one of the 11 chairs in the installation. St Amant was injured when he was 16 years old when his car was t-boned by another vehicle. He is now 33-years-old and works a job with the Lansing Lugnuts and regularly plays guitar.
“People have to become aware of, people have to become angry at, what has happened to our survivors, that the ones that were promised a lifetime of benefits have lost a lot of that and have lost their care,” his mother, Linda, told FOX 17.
Artist Christina Wright's now-adult son, Mark, was injured himself in a crash as a 2-year-old. Their family is also now struggling to maintain his medical care.
“We had an agency that we used for about 20 years in December, they pulled out noting changes, and 'no fault' made it no longer profitable for them to continue, and they referred us to another place, and they were hoping that somebody (lawmakers) would address it," she explained.
"But, when they didn't, they dropped him as of June 30."
Wright got the name for her ArtPrize piece from a Facebook group that was started as a place for survivors and their loved ones to gather. Also called 'We Can't Wait', it was launched by Peggy Campbell, her sister Barbara Schoen, and several others deeply involved with this sort of advocacy work.
"It's been really helpful for people to get to network with others, to exchange information, and really figure out what's going on, and what the best course of action would be," Campbell told FOX 17 Monday.
"But you know what, it's also devastating when you get on there and read about all the problems that people are having."
The group has worked for months to educate people across the state of what they are going through, with the goal of convincing lawmakers the address the changes, and to find a narrow fix that would keep their access to medical care int act.
“It's becoming so apparent every single day what we lost, and we have to try to bring awareness,” Linda St. Amant said.
Maureen Howell, who has been a major advocate on behalf of survivors like her son Sam, adding, "so, this (ArtPrize entry) is a little representation of the We Can't Wait group, and the determination, and the commitment, and how beautiful it can become if things turn out the way they need to turn out.”