KCAD’s Urban Institute for Contemporary Arts Announces Exhibition Calls, Soft Reopening This Summer

View of a busy street in front of a building from above

Posted January 26, 2021

The Urban Institute for Contemporary Arts (UICA) is pleased to announce its soft reopening planned for July 15, 2021, in its new home, the historical Woodbridge N. Ferris Building on the campus of Kendall College of Art and Design of Ferris State University (KCAD).

The reopening, which will coincide with UICA’s 44th anniversary, will embrace the storied arts organization’s latest transformation with a total of seven opening exhibitions that will activate spaces within and around the building. UICA will host a constricted celebration, following the COVID-19 safety guidelines and social distancing protocols required at that time.

In June 2020, the organization announced the move from 2 Fulton Street to the Woodbridge N. Ferris Building at 17 Pearl St. NW, opening new doors to create a stronger, more intentional alignment with KCAD. The two institutions merged in 2013, allowing UICA to operate as a wholly owned subsidiary of KCAD, which lends operational and administrative support. As the contemporary arts center moves forward, a smaller footprint will provide a more stable foundation to re-envision this next chapter and ensure it continues to be a leading cultural arts destination in Grand Rapids.

The new beginning also brings new opportunities for UICA to rethink membership and program offerings in ways that reinforce the organization’s commitment to diverse, inclusive, and equitable cultural experiences and community-focused work.

“UICA has a history of being a space that allows creatives to be radical, critical, and ethical,” said Executive Director Miranda Krajniak. “We're in a critical transition of reimagining what this next iteration of UICA looks like and how we can best support and promote creative communities in sustainable ways.”

Taking a collaborative approach to programming, UICA’s Curatorial Advisory Committee includes a selected group of 11 volunteers who serve as liaisons between UICA and its surrounding communities.

“I see curating as being less about a single author and more about a collective process,” said UICA & KCAD Director of Curatorial Michele Bosak, who has been a creative advocate in the Grand Rapids arts community for over 15 years. “The committee is my support and connection with folks in the art and design sectors who bring their expertise and distinct perspectives to UICA.”

Led by Bosak, a series of rotating shows will invite artists to respond to the building’s unique spaces in ways that focus on the interconnectedness of space, identity, and human experience. UICA is currently holding open calls for several of the exhibitions opening in July, including The Art of Living Together, Other World, and Whereabouts: The Influence of Place and Space.

The Art of Living Together, a juried outdoor installation, seeks design solutions that reimagine spaces surrounding the building while focusing on community engagement and embracing radical approaches to making and thinking. By fostering unconventional relationships between interiors and exteriors, the exhibition aims to create a symbiosis between KCAD and UICA. Submissions for The Art of Living Together will be accepted through February 6, 2021.

Other World, a juried group exhibition, seeks to reframe what’s possible for Queer, Trans, and BIPOC people through stories of alternate futures and worlds created on their own terms. Proposals with works of all media in the art, design, and craft fields that push the bounds of reality in provocatively positive ways will be accepted for Other World through March 7, 2021.

Whereabouts: The Influence of Place and Space will include three site-specific installations that invite artists to recontextualize the space in Woodbridge N. Ferris Building’s lobby, main floor corridors, and main floor display cases. Submissions for Whereabouts will be accepted through March 7, 2021.

“The best role that I can have as a curator is to support creatives in ways that allow them to take necessary risks to advance their practice, because that's where the real magic happens,” said Bosak. “When there is opportunity to invest time and think alongside a creative, the work is open-ended and filled with possibilities.”

With a history of relocation and continuous evolution, UICA is well-positioned to adapt quickly to its modern space within the 111-year-old architecture, which previously housed the Grand Rapids Art Museum until 2007. Since last year, UICA staff have been working in preparation for July’s reopening—moving and making adjustments to the lobby, corridor, and galleries. By activating the outdoor grounds and creating auxiliary spaces outside of the traditional galleries, UICA envisions these living-room-style areas as comfortable gathering places to sit, meet, read, or work while surrounded by art.

The 1909 Beaux Arts-style building is listed on the National Register of Historic places and has received several awards, including the 2012 Adaptive Reuse Award, the 2013 Governor's Award for Historic Preservation, and the Michigan Historic Preservation Network award, as well as LEED Gold Certification by the U.S. Green Building Council.

Post reopening, UICA’s exhibition schedule will shift to three openings per year—fall, spring, and summer—following the KCAD’s semester schedule to better serve and engage students. Additionally, plans for a UICA shop/student bookstore hybrid are in store.

For more details about open calls, please visit uica.org.