UICA’s Off the Wall Shakes Things Up

Les Creatif
Les Creatif

The Urban Institute for Contemporary Arts (UICA) is switching things up this year with the first annual Off the Wall fundraiser. For 20 years, the UICA hosted Live Coverage—an event that invited artists to create in a live setting while spectators mused, hoping to win auctioned art.

The May 15 event is literally “off the wall,” inviting musicians, spoken-word poets, dancers and improv groups to celebrate their art in a fun, performative environment. The executive director of the UCIA, Miranda Krajniak, is looking forward to bringing the arts community together over something new.

“We just felt the need to switch it out,” she said. “I mean, we’re the UICA, and change is our natural habitat. And, I think that we had asked a lot of the visual artists in the community––to often volunteer time and artwork to support us and so we decided to shift to a performance-based fundraiser.”

The event features multiple performances, scattered throughout the various galleries in the building. Some performers were recruited through webs of mutual connections while others were scouted through social media.

Amy Wilson & Fiona Dickson
Amy Wilson & Fiona Dickson

“It’s always fun for us to start from scratch – ‘who’s out there, who will do this, what opportunities are there in Grand Rapids, what talent do we have in our city that could be brought to the forefront here,’” Krajniak said. “And so, we knew we wanted music, theater, performance and dance, so the first person we reached out to was Dance in the Annex’s Amy Wilson. We had worked with the Feminist Film Festival, so we knew Grace VanHoven’s sister and boom, boom, boom!”

Grace VanHoven is a local opera singer and performer. VanHoven said she’s excited to give back through the Off the Wall debut.

“I am so excited to have this opportunity to perform in Grand Rapids as a part of the community I grew up in,” she said. “It is truly an honor to be a representative of the arts here.”

Grace VanHoven
Grace VanHoven

VanHoven hopes that this event encourages attendees to support the Grand Rapids art communities, both visual and performance-based.

“I hope that this inspires those who come to keep giving back to the arts here and keep nurturing young artists around them,” she said. “Without the artistic community around me, I would not be where I am now. Without my high school choir program, I would not be pursuing opera performance.”

Velvet bowties and brightly colored cocktail dresses may be the norm at UICA events, but Off the Wall invites guests to give “everyday chic” a try.

“Unlike a lot of UICA events where we have like a pretty flamboyant dress code, this is just come as you are,” Krajniak said. “It’s a Tuesday, come in your work clothes. You’re going to be on your feet because it’s really active.”

Off the Wall is from 6 p.m. – 8 p.m. on Tuesday, May 15. Per usual UICA fashion, small bites and a cash bar will be available for guests to enjoy, and DJ Adrian Butler will serve as the master of ceremonies. Tickets are $50 for the public and $35 for UICA members.

*Photos courtesy of UICA

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