By Carol Cain

Buoyed by the incredible success of ArtPrize, Grand Rapids social entrepreneur Rick DeVos is preparing to take the wraps off of his newest project on Thursday — a statewide venture called Start Garden.

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Though much isn’t being revealed, those involved with DeVos say it shares a kindred mission with ArtPrize, Momentum, 5 x 5 Night, and his other ventures which is to unleash the creative spirit to attract more people, grow businesses and buzz for a state in need. “Rick’s doing his own thing just as technology pioneers did their own thing in Silicon Valley in the 1960s,” said a person working closely with him.

DeVos isn’t saying much but a comment made on “Michigan Matters” not long ago about his ventures that offers some insight. “It’s a continuation of the same spirit that led us into the industrial era. Different times call for different approaches in how business is done,” DeVos said.

Colorful fliers with words like “start starting” and “think small” have been popping up in downtown Detroit, Grand Rapids, Lansing this week teasing Start Garden.

DeVos, 30-year-old grandson of Amway co-founder Rich and Helen DeVos, and son of Dick and Betsy DeVos, will unveil details at a press conference Thursday in his hometown of Grand Rapids. DeVos is the force behind ArtPrize (the most lucrative art contest in the world with prizes totaling $560,000 this year), Pomegranate Studios and more.

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Now in its fourth year, ArtPrize is a unique competition with few rules where anyone can be an artist (of course, you have to apply. Registration for artists starts April 23 and continues through May 24). Grand Rapids serves as the backdrop for the annual contest with artists setting up in locations throughout the downtown. In 2011, artists from 39 countries participated. This year’s ArtPrize will take place Sept. 19 through October 7.

The event has lured curators, educators, critics and visitors from across the globe as well as bringing in millions of dollars of economic activity. Just as important, DeVos — along with longtime city fathers and mothers who share unwavering civic pride and readily put their money behind their efforts – has shown what can happen when a community rows together in the same direction.,

Grand Rapids has become a “hot” city — winning accolades including just being named the No. 1 city in the nation to raise a family, according to Forbes magazine.

DeVos is hoping Start Garden inspires more buzz and helps brings a few more accolades to his home state.

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Carol Cain is the Emmy winning senior producer and host of “Michigan Matters” airing 11:30 a.m. Sundays on CBS 62. She can be reached at