For ArtPrize this year, the Urban Institute for Contemporary Arts is presenting “UICA Outside”—an exhibition that moves beyond the gallery and out into the Grand Rapids community.
This exhibition, which is part of the UICA’s public art initiative known as the Exit Space Project, will feature five mural projects in three neighborhoods: Baxter, Creston and the West Side. The goal of this initiative is to provide permanent artworks that are accessible and engaging for everyone.
Kristen Taylor, development officer at the UICA, said the idea for the Exit Space Project came from a literal space within the UICA building.
“We have this funky space near an emergency exit on the ground floor, and when this building was opened back in 2011, some of the staff and artists here decided to make use of that space for an exhibition,” Taylor said.
The space became a display for temporary public art exhibitions, and this eventually grew into a larger project with the goal of moving art out of that area of the building and into the city.
“UICA Outside” is taking this goal one step further through the installation of permanent murals in various locations throughout Grand Rapids. Artists Alan Campo, Colby Roanhorse, Nick Nortier, Kimberly Lavon and design collective Evas’ve, led by Elyse Flynn, have partnered with the UICA to bring these mural projects to life.
Compo’s mural is located at the Pearl Street bridge tunnel and features vibrant symbolism inspired by his Anishinaabe heritage, and Roanhorse’s mural at Childress & Associates in the Creston neighborhood seeks to honor his ancestors–the Navajo peoples–while celebrating indigenous identity in contemporary society.
Nortier’s mural at Creston Market is inspired by migration and community, and Lavon’s mural at Joe Taylor Park pays homage to the Baxter neighborhood’s innovative spirit and proud Hispanic history.
The design collective Evas’ve, made up of members Elyse Flynn, Rebecca Rapin, Alex Barger, Haylie Bos and Kacie Forbes, created a mural at Stonesthrow that reflects the Creston neighborhood’s furniture manufacturing history.
Not only has “UICA Outside” fostered a spirit of accessibility and engagement with art, but it has also created opportunities for input and collaboration with Grand Rapids communities.
“Each one of these murals is either by an artist who is from that neighborhood or has been created with lots of input from that neighborhood. We worked really closely with various community groups to get ideas and feedback on what these murals were going to consist of and what they were going to look like,” Taylor said.
It’s these kinds of unique exhibitions that make the UICA a popular ArtPrize venue each year. Past successes include ArtPrize Best Venue Award nominations and hosting both Public and Juried Award Category finalists and winners.
Looking back on the impact of ArtPrize over the last decade, Taylor recognizes the positive effects it’s had on the UICA as well as Grand Rapids as a whole.
“ArtPrize reaching this milestone 10th year is a big deal—it’s a lot for the city to celebrate, and I think its success has a lot to say about what’s really unique about Grand Rapids,” Taylor said. “It has a big impact on an institution like the UICA because it brings in a large and relatively new audience to us. We’re always excited to present artwork from artists we love to as many people as possible.”
With ArtPrize switching to a biennial format with a commissioned exhibition during alternate years, Taylor feels the same energy and excitement will still be present.
“I’m looking forward to seeing what ArtPrize does with Project 1, and I think we’ll look forward to it with the same kind of anticipation and delight,” Taylor said.
For more details on “UICA Outside” visit the UICA website or the UICA building, where maps to all five of the mural sites are available.
*Photos courtesy of Carbon Stories