World of Winter Festival Begins

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Alison Bair, Staff Writer

Grand Rapids is hosting its 6th annual winter festival, World of Winter, which began on Jan. 6. 

Similar to the fall festival ArtPrize, World of Winter features many art installations from artists around the world. The festival includes over 20 outdoor art installations and more than 50 ice sculptures as well as events and activities. The exhibits are set up in different locations across the city, such as the Blue Bridge, Lyon Square and Calder Plaza.

The Singing Tree, located in front of the Grand Rapids Public Museum, is a night-specific exhibit created by Limbic Media of British Columbia, Canada. 

Limbic Media CEO Justin Love said the tree display lights up with any sound, such as singing, clapping or conversation.

“We developed a sound-responsive lighting platform in 2017,” Love said. “The nice thing about (interactive installations) is that they’re participatory. Not only on an individual level but it also encourages groups of people to come up and interact with it.”

The Singing Tree is back for its second year in Grand Rapids. Similar exhibits from Limbic Media exist around the world.

“We’ve done about 250 installations around the world,” Love said. “My favorite is in Chomutov in (the Czech Republic) and there’s footage of the village coming down and singing in front of a tree.”

Another interactive exhibit is “Sounds of Spring Under Sheets of Snow” by Craig Merchant.

Found in Sixth Street Park, the piece features a visual and auditory array of native Michigan animals.

“I just tried to pick animals that bring you back to the warmer months of Michigan,” Merchant said.

When the city of Grand Rapids put out proposals for World of Winter, Merchant drafted his idea and sent it in. Having previous experience with World of Winter, Merchant was a priority choice artist.

“I think this piece – or really all of World of Winter – encourages you to get outside, which I know can be hard in the winter months,” Merchant said.

Though still relatively new, World of Winter is regaining traction since the COVID-19 pandemic.

With plenty of picturesque attractions and family-friendly events, World of Winter provides outdoor entertainment before the summer months.

World of Winter allows visitors to kick the post-holiday blues, celebrating the rest of the winter ahead. The activities, art exhibits and fun are a family-friendly outlet for the Grand Rapids community. World of Winter art installations are free and open to the public from Jan 6 until Mar 5. Additional event times, dates and locations can be found at the World of Winter Grand Rapids website.