The Rapidian

Art.Downtown. plans for bigger event

Art.Downtown. prepares for its seventh year of showcasing local artists all throughout downtown.
One of many sites from last year's event.

One of many sites from last year's event. /Courtesy of Avenue for the Arts

Underwriting support from:

Art.Downtown. Fundraising Event Information

When: March 9, 2012 starting at 7 p.m.

Where: Pub 43

Who: Artists, curators, volunteers, and the community

Why: To raise money for the 2012 Art.Downtown. event

A percentage of bar tabs during the fundraiser will be donated to Art.Downtown.

Art.Downtown., slated for April 13, plans to be bigger than previous years. This year's event boasts three trolleys taking Grand Rapidians to over 30 locations with over 350 artists being showcased. It is one night when downtown Grand Rapids becomes a hub of the local art community and, according to Art.Downtown.'s tagline, "Artists Take Over."

Initially called Spring for the Arts, this citywide art show started in 2005. The name changed to Art.Downtown. in 2008. This year, more than just the name has changed, as behind the scenes the planning for the 2012 event includes an increase in locations as well as artists and adding one more infamous trolley to transport people to all of the art locations. 

"I think this event will have extremely accessible transportation. We are also working on some hot spots where there will be additional parking, catering," explained Jenn Schaub. Last year, one of the two trolleys broke down. The solution is to add a third trolley this April, with eight stops throughout downtown. There will also be maps with the anchor locations shown. This year's anchor locations include the Urban Institute for Contemporary Arts (UICA), Grand Rapids Art Museum (GRAM), Kendall College of Art and Design (KCAD), West Michigan Center for Art and Technology (WMCAT), Avenue for the Arts and the Kendall graduate studios on Grandville Avenue. The trolleys are expected to makestops mainly in front of or near these anchor locations.

It's more than just trolleys and increased venue and artist participation that some are hoping improve this year. "I don't think the general public has really given the Heartside neighborhood a chance. Many just have a bad image of what the neighborhood used to be ten [or more] years ago before any of the businesses moved in, and that image has stayed with them for some reason. It could just be a generational gap," stated Mike Wolf. Wolf is the curator for artist Amanda Wieczorek at the DAAC for the 2012 event, and has shown his own work in past events.

There also seems to be a missing demographic. Many local area colleges surround, or are in the middle of, downtown Grand Rapids, and the planners of Art.Downtown. want them involved. 

"Not enough students participate in what's going on downtown with arts and culture and I'd like to see that change," said Wolf.

One location in particular will do just what Wolf hopes. The space is located at 138 Fulton, near WMCAT and SiTE:LAB, and will house Grand Valley State University (GVSU) students from three different art departments. Amber Stout, curator of this location, stated, "What's kind of unique about this is that in the past, GVSU graphic design students have not really collaborated or showed their work in the same space as other majors- so this should be an interesting event."

Art.Downtown. claims to have something for everyone, even infusing theater and live performance into the five hour art show. Tom Clinton of SiTE:LAB says this year is going to be quite unique. "Site:Lab curator Paul Amenta is teaming up with playwright and GVSU professor Austin Bunn to transform the building into the setting for a performance piece being written by Bunn that is inspired by the building’s history." Clinton said that about 100 artists will be involved in the piece. "During Art.Downtown., actors and performers will be enacting a narrative throughout the space. Unlike a traditional play, viewers will be able to experience the performance at their own pace and in their own order, or through random encounters."

With a growing event comes the need for more support. To help prepare for what has potential to be the biggest Art.Downtown. to date, the community is invited to stop in to Pub 43 on March 9th anytime after 7 p.m. A percentage of bar tabs will go to benefit Art.Downtown. For more information on the fundraiser, or the event itself, contact Jenn Schaub.

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