Kendall Grad Takes Talents to China

Posted February 4, 2013 in Alumni, Faculty


When you think of art, George Clooney may not be the first name that comes to mind. That was certainly true for Kendall grad and adjunct professor Mark Rumsey, but he recently found his work being reviewed by the superstar actor.

Clooney is one of half a dozen members of the review committee that selected Rumsey to be an artist-in-residence at the Swatch Art Peace Hotel, in Shanghai, China.

Mark Rumsey is no stranger to being in the spotlight and earning recognition as an artist and mentor. He received his MFA in Printmaking from Kendall in 2008, and has since gone on to develop his own art gallery - an effort that helped him earn an honor as a Grand Rapids Business Journal “40 under Forty,” in 2012.

His gallery, Free Radical, pops up every fall in downtown Grand Rapids, giving a large, diverse group of local artists a space to display their work. The event was created 10 years ago, long before west Michigan art was a talking point of national publications.

“For years we have heard about the importance of the creative class to the success of a region,” said Rumsey. “In Grand Rapids we have seen the benefits of having an active art community, but little recognition has been given to it.”

He firmly believes that his time at Kendall helped guide him to the success he’s seeing today.

“The truth is, a good art program teaches you that you can do anything. You can make something awesome out of virtually anything whether that is a physical object or social structures.”

This year's China experience will be added to his CV, which also includes Austria, Belgium, Turkey, India and too many American cities to list. In fact, Rumsey's 2013 China trip is a homecoming of sorts.

"I was there as a student 16 years ago, so it will be interesting to see how Shanghai has evolved," said Rumsey. He's excited to immerse himself in a place known for its art and culture as much as its importance as a center of global business in Asia.

Rumsey will be provided lodging for the three-month stay and is only asked to do one thing: leave a "trace" at the end of his stay that represents his experience in China and at the hotel. He's not sure what he'll be creating yet, as the space he's given tends to be a direct influence.

Rumsey's studio in China

"I go to a place with a couple ideas, but the space is such an influence that I end up leaving having done something completely different," he said.

The first time he left the country, he said he quickly realized how a different aesthetic tied to the local values can be a big influence in the art he creates over time. In fact, he said it often takes months after he's returned to west Michigan before the influence is clear.

West Michigan undoubtedly will be better upon Mark’s return, from the wealth of creativity he’s sure to bring home.

Follow Rumsey's China experience on his blog.

Learn more about The Swatch Art Peace Hotel and its artist residency program on their website.