The Rapidian

Behind the Scenes: Hard Hat Preview of UICA's New Building

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For more than a year there has been much talk and anticipation about the new mixed use building that will be home to the Urban Institute for Contemporary Art (UICA). A recent hardhat tour led by Jeff Meeuwsen, director of the UICA revealed numerous captivating aspects of the five-story building located at Commerce, Fulton and Division. The UICA expects to move into the first phase of the space in December 2010.
To accompany the slide show, here are a few things about the new UICA that Meeuwsen talked about on the tour.

  • The first floor was designed with pedestrians in mind. Walking east up Fulton people will be able to look down into a working ceramics studio. Other exhibition space follows the street to the entrance at Division Avenue.
  • The lobby corner will have LED lighting and a video screen that will serve as both art and marquee for the art space.
  • Leaving the lobby there is a long ramp taking people into the exhibition spaces. The ramp is not accompanied by a set of stairs, “We want the space to bring people together, not separate them,” said Meeuwsen.
  • The UICA is not a collecting institution; it holds no works of art of its own. Artists who show at UICA generally create art for the space, rather than look for a space to place their art. All exhibitions are temporary, remaining on view for several weeks or longer.
  • There will 15 spaces or galleries for art in the new building.
  • There is one exhibition space that is 120 feet wide and another that is 40 feet tall. UICA will invite artists to work site-specifically in these unique spaces, creating large-scale works that will be visible on Fulton Street.
  • One gallery will be dedicated to emerging Michigan artists. “It will be a career launch pad for artists from our own community,” said Meeuwsen. Adjacent to this gallery will be a studio for UICA’s many youth programs.
  • The building will be LEED certified, the level of LEED will be determined closer to completion.
  • The fifth floor of the building will host Artists in Residence. The studio space has west-facing windows and abundant natural light.
  • The lower level of the UICA will have a 200-seat cinema. The seats in the new space were bought in auction from the former Studio 28 Theater. They are being recovered for the new cinema.
  • There is a recessed art space on the lower-level, Meeuwsen imagines that the 12 x 3 foot space which is cut into the floor of the building could be painted, lit and contain art that people could stand above and look down into. It will have a glass lid to protect it.
  • The UICA staff will work on the third floor. The second floor is for City parking.
  • The fourth floor features galleries, a catering kitchen and a black box theatre. There is no other theater like it in West Michigan (you can see it projecting off the building on Commerce and Fulton). The flexible theater seats 150 and will allow UICA to present underrepresented contemporary performance, music and dance as well as partner with regional institutions.
  • This fifth floor has a large terrace that looks eastward. Meeuwsen sees it as a four-season space. “Events in the warm weather and art installations in winter,” he said. There are large glass walls that look out onto the terrace from inside.
  • The fifth floor is the UICA’s primary rental space. Rentals for special events are a source of income for the institution.
  • For the first time in its history the UICA will charge admission. “This was a tough decision,” said Meeuwsen. “But we have to be sustainable.” Admission rates have not set, they will be “affordable” and members will be admitted free.
  • The UICA is still mid-campaign and is at 65 percent of its fundraising goal, with just over $5 million to be raised. A matching gift program is in effect and capital campaign funds will be matched 1:1 up to $2.5 million for all pledges received by July 31.

You can view the images from the tour with descriptive captions here.




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