The Rapidian

UICA adds to Grand Rapids’ outdoor public art collection

Detroit-based artist, Louise 'Ouizi' Chen painted a mural on the Grand Rapid Ballet Company's building as a part of the UICA's Exit Space Project and ArtPrize 2017.
Artist Louise 'Ouizi' Chen painting the new mural

Artist Louise 'Ouizi' Chen painting the new mural /Courtesy of the UICA

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Artist Louise 'Ouizi' Chen painting the new mural on the Grand Rapids Ballet Company's building.

Artist Louise 'Ouizi' Chen painting the new mural on the Grand Rapids Ballet Company's building. /Courtesy of the UICA

The Urban Institute for Contemporary Arts (UICA) has commissioned Louise ‘Ouizi’ Chen to create the third installment of its public art initiative, The Exit Space Project (ESP). After successfully reaching their crowdfunding goals in 2015 with help from the Michigan Economic Development Council and over 100 contributors to UICA’s Patronicity crowdfunding campaign, UICA installed a large-scale work on the exterior of the Grand Rapids Ballet Company, 341 Ellsworth Ave. SE Grand Rapids, MI 49503. 

The Urban Institute for Contemporary Arts, Michigan’s largest contemporary arts center, is host to the Exit Space Project, a dynamic series of art installations investigating ideas, images and conversation that are conveyed by contemporary artists working in public spaces. The first volume of the Exit Space Project featured public works and street artists from the Midwest who installed work in a public-facing but protected space in UICA’s building facing Fulton Street. The second wave of the Exit Space Project highlights and continues to support local and regional artists on buildings and structures throughout the city. This UICA initiative aims to increase Grand Rapids' vibrancy, build the sense of creative place for our residents and visitors, and advance the city's identity as a growing collaborative ecosystem that nurtures business, technology, art and design. The Exit Space Project was first introduced to Grand Rapids by local artists Erwin Erkfitz and Brandon Alman, who continue to work with UICA to implement public artworks.

The newest addition to Grand Rapids’ public art collection is a sprawling large-scale floral design, visible to commuters along the US 131 and the Wealthy St. corridor. The muralist was selected by UICA staff after several scouting trips around the state. Louise ‘Ouizi’ Chen is an artist and muralist based out of Detroit, Michigan who has transformed walls and spaces in Brooklyn, Iowa, Los Angeles, Michigan, Shanghai and other cities across the world. Ouizi’s vibrant floral designs and elegant compositions stood out as a style that is not currently represented in the inventory of Grand Rapids’ public art, and one that would create a vibrant streetscape viewable by pedestrians and motorists that signals the vitality and energy of Grand Rapids.

UICA approached The Grand Rapids Ballet Company about transforming the south facing walls of their building and were met with enthusiasm. “The very substance of our creativity is to have fun,” said Grand Rapids Ballet Artistic Director Patricia Barker. “Intelligence is a creative explorer that sees beauty all around. Grand Rapids Ballet remains committed to artists who help make beautiful spaces, seeking inspiration not only from within but all around us. West Michigan’s art and culture will continue to flourish when nurtured by breathtaking collaborative initiatives like this one.”

Miranda Krajniak, UICA’s Executive Director said, “Large scale murals that are accessible to all transform everyday life for the thousands of people who will see them every day, activating what are now quiet and overlooked areas into vibrant, welcoming corridors and gathering places. UICA is proud to present these public works to the community and is dedicated to community-driven initiatives such as the Exit Space Project.”

UICA houses its own Exit Space Project location on the exterior of their building located at 2 Fulton West, and is currently seeking submissions. Local artists are encouraged to apply for consideration to have their work featured in the public gallery space. Applications end August 1, 2016. For more infomation visit the UICA’s Exit Space Project page. Ouizi’s mural has also been registered as an official ArtPrize entry and is in the running to compete for the ArtPrize grand prize, thus giving guests a look at one of the first ArtPrize Eight entries.

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