The Urban Institute for Contemporary Art’s (UICA) annual OddBall event takes place next weekend. Now in its seventh year, OddBall has developed a reputation for being one of the most unique events of the year, with attendees often dressing in creative outfits in line with each year’s “oddball” theme. This year’s theme is “cultivate” and the suggested attire is described as “flora and farmer.”
GR|Mag spoke with Kristen Taylor, UICA’s development officer, about what to expect from this year’s event.
OddBall: Cultivate takes place Saturday, Sept. 9 from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. at UICA. Be sure to get your tickets before next week Tuesday – and before the event sells out!
GR|Mag: The annual OddBall event is coming up next week. Tell me about the cultivate theme that was chosen for this year?
Kristen Taylor: OddBall: Cultivate presented by Meijer is the premiere of UICA’s ArtPrize exhibition that will actually be on view into December. “Cultivate” is a curated group show that uses food as a lens to examine cultural history, social equity and the effects of globalization on communities.
Food – how it is produced, the environmental conditions that make it sustainable, how it is consumed, the cultural practices related to it – has been the subject of art for centuries. From northern Renaissance still life paintings, to Pop Art social metaphor, to contemporary relational aesthetics that spur social interaction, food remains an important subject of expression.
The artists presented in “Cultivate” have chosen as their subjects elements that relate to all of these, while challenging viewers to consider our present relationship with what we consume as the fulcrum for our future relationships with one another, and with the environment.
GR|Mag: This theme ties in with the food and what the UICA is asking folks to wear to the event, right? Tell me about those tie-ins and how themes have influenced the event in the past? What do you hope to see this year?
KT: Visitors to UICA know to expect the unexpected all year, and we tend to take that up a notch during OddBall. So the theme always extends to OddBall’s guests as well, where they can get creative with their wardrobe and accessories. Since this year’s theme is food related, the suggested dress is ‘flora and farmer.’ That means anything food, plant or farm related.
We’ve got a Pinterest board of ideas if anyone feels stuck, but we’re expecting to see lots of dressed-up country, farmer, sustainable fashion.
GR|Mag: Do you know what you’ll be wearing to the event yet?
KT: I’m thinking along the lines of a modern milkmaid. You might call it contemporary Vermeer.
GR|Mag: What’s included with the ticket price?
KT: Tickets include appetizers and a seated dinner featuring a custom, locally-sourced menu by Applause Catering and Events, hosted beer and wine with local and sustainable selections, entertainment, and validated self-parking in Downtown GR parking ramps. And, of course, a portion of the ticket price is a donation to UICA that supports contemporary art exhibitions and programs all year.
GR|Mag: I saw that Sam Cummings is receiving an award. For those who don’t know him, tell us a little about what he’s done in the Grand Rapids community and for the UICA?
KT: Sam and his wife Janene have been friends and donors to UICA for about 20 years, The Arts Advocate award is about more than the honoree’s relationship with UICA, though, in that it recognizes the way that someone has supported or advanced the arts in our entire community.
Sam is the principal and managing partner at CWD Real Estate Investment, and he could be commended for his commitment to art and design in his restoration, renovation, and newly-built real estate work alone. But Sam goes far beyond that as both a collector of local artists’ work and through his committee, board, and fundraising work for several West Michigan arts organizations. Sam exemplifies someone who understands that the arts are an essential part of life, and a key part of what makes a community thrive.
GR|Mag: Is there anything else you think attendees should know about the event?
KT: We’re excited that many of the artists whose work is in the “Cultivate” exhibition will be with us that night. Talking one-on-one with an artist about their work is such an enlightening experience.
We’re also very grateful to all of the donors and sponsors who are contributing to the event, including Kendall College of Art and Design of Ferris State University and Ferris State University, UICA’s parent institutions, and we look forward to thanking their guests in person that night.
There will be beautiful flowers by A Growing Frenzy, a fall harvest doughnut bar by Robinette’s, and live henna tattooing by J. Henna. We’re also exhibiting artwork by Tamara Fox, Amy Carroll and Michael Peoples for just that night. Much of that artwork will also be available for purchase that night.
GR|Mag: Last I checked, tickets were still on sale. Do you expect the event to sell out?
KT: Tickets and table sponsorships will be available until Tuesday, Sept. 5 at noon. The event did sell out last year, so it could happen again!
*Photo courtesy of UICA