Art.Downtown. highlights local artists, student showcases

Audrey Sochor

Now celebrating its fifth year, Art.Downtown. continues to bring community members together with hundreds of local artists.

Featuring around 30 downtown sites with more than 300 artists on display, the April 12 event “is a one night shop hop around the city of Grand Rapids,” said Krzysztof Lower, Grand Valley State University art and design major and intern with Avenue for the Arts.

Art.Downtown. is hosted by Avenue for the Arts, and runs from 6-11 p.m. To make it easier to try and see most of the art, three of the city’s trolleys are being brought back to help navigate. Volunteers will also be at all of the trolley stops, and other locations, passing out site maps.

Jenn Schaub, coordinator for Avenue for the Arts, said each site will have a different feel, with some focusing on student work, while some are live/work spaces. The different venues will showcase a variety of art media, including drawing, ceramics, photography, painting, sculpture, music and more.

“I think that the thing to know about the event as a whole is that it’s very eclectic,” Schaub said. “So you’re going to see a really broad range of artwork.”

But she said what really unifies the event is all of the artists are local from the Grand Rapids region, such as students affiliated with a university.

GVSU will have two student groups participating in Art.Downtown., including the graphic design seniors’ showcase, Praxis13, and drawing professor Michael Ingold’s advanced drawing class, which will be showing at Bloom Collective on Jefferson Avenue.

“For students that are in the art and design department, this is a good opportunity for them to sort of get their feet wet with experience, and (see) what it’s like to put on a show of their own,” Ingold said.

He said students who finish their degree at GVSU want to go on to be functional in the arts in some capacity, and that requires them to be able to deal with an audience. They have to be able to communicate with a group of people about their intentions, and this a great opportunity to do just that, he said.

Art.Downtown. also offers students exposure they might otherwise not receive.

One of the challenges of GVSU being in Allendale is the isolation from downtown, Ingold said. Art is something that by definition requires an audience, “and unfortunately there is not a huge audience for art here in Allendale.”

Lower said a lot of art students can get stuck in the GVSU community, and Art.Downtown. is a great way to connect with the Grand Rapids art scene while still in school.

“And I don’t know why people wouldn’t want to show their work,” Lower said. “If you’re making artwork you might as well show it. You can make as much work as you want in the studio, but if you don’t show it nobody knows about it.”

Graphic design majors Kuu Hubbard and Sam Atherton are two GVSU students hoping to get exposure during their 13-person senior design show, Praxis13. Taking place at Take Hold Church on S. Division Avenue, their show will display projects showcasing the skills they have learned throughout their college careers, with the aim of meeting future employers.

The Praxis13 exhibit showcases a range of the student’s future employment goals and talents. After graduation, Atherton wants to be a brand developer, so for his project he used the fictional Parallax Industries, a corporation that invents time travel, to show his ability to create a brand identity.

“So I’ll be able to show perspective employers that this is what I’ll be able to do for you, for your company,” Atherton said.

While Atherton’s is focused on a fictional business, Hubbard’s helium project is a campaign that highlights the affects the current helium shortage has had on many industries.

“It’s not really a well-known thing, and a lot of people think helium is just used for balloons, but there are more serious uses for helium,” she said.

But it’s not all about exposure for the artists. It’s also about appreciation for all of their hard work creating.

“I just want my show to be an accumulation of everything I learned the last four years,” Hubbard said. “I mean, the exposure is nice, but it’s more about the project for me and not necessarily the exposure.”
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