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UICA merges with Kendall College of Art and Design

In a dramatic move to ensure its survival, the UICA has merged with Kendall College of Art and Design, becoming a wholly-owned subsidiary of Kendall and Ferris State University.

/Tori Pelz

/Tori Pelz

According to a press release issued Thursday, without some major changes, the UICA was on a path to closing its doors this fall.

Impeded by a 3.8 million dollar deficit, in part due to their recent move to the new building, their choices were limited. The best option, according to university and board presidents, is a merger with Kendall College of Art and Design and Ferris State University.

“Our plan was simple: protect UICA from as many of their expenses as possible and help them gain momentum,” says Kendall President David Rosen. “If UICA generates new funds, we will make sure they help UICA grow into the vibrant center it aspires to be.” This new partnership was made possible by key contributions of a small group of long-term, dedicated donors, announced long-time donor, Kate Wolters. Talk of this merger has been in the works for the past five or six months. UICA staff learned the news just yesterday, at the same time as the press.

Structurally, the UICA will continue to operate independently. Although its current board is now dissolved and will be governed by Ferris’ Board of Directors. There will be an advisory board made up of key donors and will incorporate art professionals. The staff at UICA will now have Operations support from KCAD staff. Otherwise, there was no mention of other organizational crossovers.

In terms of financial commitments, this merger means that KCAD will take on UICA’S deficit. Specifically, the college will take on about a third of the debt, according to Garry Granger, Ferris State Board of Directors Chair. It is unclear whether this is a direct cash bail out or equivalent in-kind Operational services.

Rosen indicated his belief that in the next three to five years, the UICA would be financially sustainable. Any profits that the UICA generates will go back into the funding the UICA. The UICA will still be encouraged to run a tight ship and balance their own budget.

To generate income, the UICA will be focusing on new memberships, program sponsorship and increasing attendance at art events. One of the ways the community has been most engaged at the UICA is through film. Going forward, there will be greater emphasis placed on film programming, expanding their traditionally independent offers to include more classics and other community-friendly offerings. 

“Films are our most competitive product,” says UICA Director, Miranda Krajniak.

Krajniak acknowledges that the building is still incomplete and will see some changes as Alexander Paschka, curator for the UICA, works to present art in a way that appeals to a wider audience.

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