UICA ready for “souvenirs to make” at its new Grand Rapids site

GRAND RAPIDS, MI – After being closed for most of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Urban Institute for Contemporary Arts is now reopened – and in new space.

The 44-year-old arts organization held its grand opening last week at the historic Woodbridge N. Ferris building at Kendall College of Art and Design, 17 Pearl St. NW, in downtown Grand Rapids. He moved there from the gallery on Fulton, at the corner of Fulton Street and Division Avenue, due to financial issues related to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“UICA is known to have new spaces,” said Executive Director Miranda Krajniak, noting that UICA is now located in six buildings since its inception in 1977.

“We’ve been everywhere and we have to reinvent ourselves every time we have a new space. The wonderful thing about being contemporary is that we are constantly changing. We are never the same. We are constantly rethinking and reshaping, which allows us to make these really important changes.

The Woodbridge N. Ferris Building is a 104-year-old Beaux-Arts structure originally built as a Federal Post Office and Courthouse and then served as the Grand Rapids Art Museum from 1981 to 2007. In 1974, it has been entered in the national register of historic monuments. Places. The Kendall College of Art and Design, part of Ferris State University, spent $ 16.6 million to renovate and restore the building in 2013.

UICA, a branch of Kendall College, had been based at the Gallery on Fulton since 2011.

“There is no doubt that COVID has had a huge impact on our business,” said Krajniak, executive director of the association since 2013.

“So moving into this space, which is just as glorious as 2 Fultons, was really out of economic need. We had to reduce our overhead and increase our capacity in order to survive at the next level, and that’s important. As a community, we love unchecked growth. We like everything to get bigger and bigger. But sometimes, it must be said, for this institution, we have to step back and consolidate in order to see our new vision. “

Kendall, which is part of Ferris State University, merged with UICA in 2013 to help keep the arts organization alive. At the time, UICA was on the verge of closing because its debt and monthly expenses exceeded its income. Upon the merger, Ferris agreed to repay UICA’s unpaid debts of more than $ 4 million.

UICA shares its space at the Woodbridge N. Ferris Building with Kendall, who has classrooms and other operations.

Krajniak said UICA occupies most of the building’s first floor, including its gallery, where the works of around 20 artists are exhibited. On the garden level, the UICA has spaces for educational activities as well as conservation and office spaces. He shares space on the second floor, where old courtrooms have been converted to classrooms, with Kendall.

Although the move represents a downsizing for UICA, there is a lot to like about the new UICA space, Krajniak said.

A new feature that fascinates her: green spaces outside the building.

“The UICA at 2 Fulton went all the way to the sidewalk, so there wasn’t a very natural gathering space outside for people,” Krajniak said, adding that his organization now has the option. exhibit outdoor sculptures and organize outdoor activities.

She added: “We have a front lawn and we have a back lawn, which is perfect because now it’s COVID where every opportunity to bring people together could now be outside.”

One item lost in the move: UICA’s 195-seat theater at 2 Fulton St., which regularly featured independent cinema and other films.

Krajniak said other organizations in Grand Rapids will continue the work of disseminating independent cinema.

“There are wonderful community theaters that serve our audiences,” she said. “I encourage people to spend time at the Wealthy Street Theater, to check out the independent series at Studio C. There is always a way to support independent cinema in Grand Rapids that is not with UICA.”

The UICA gallery currently hosts two exhibitions, “The Way Forward” and “Other World”.

During ArtPrize, the organization reduced the hours – from noon to 5 p.m. on Friday and Saturday. Residents who cannot visit during this time are encouraged to email UICA, [email protected], to arrange another visit time.

Once ArtPrize is finished on October 3, the UICA will resume its usual hours. – from 12 p.m. to 5 p.m. on Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday, and from 12 p.m. to 7 p.m. on Thursday.

Entrance is free for the public.

Krajniak said the Woodbridge N. Ferris Building holds a special place in Grand Rapids history. It hosted weddings and other events when operated by the Grand Rapids Art Museum, it once served as a courthouse, and former President Gerald R. Ford and the FBI once had an office there.

“The UICA having this building open and free for the public and programming it, provides a certain continuity of this space to our community,” she said. “I really love that the building is open again to create a new set of memories.”

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