UICA opens diversity exhibition

By Kate Branum | 2/5/17 9:52pm

GVL/Kate Branum - UICA exhibitions; Here + Now, as seen on Thursday, Feb. 2, 2017.
by Kate Branum and Kate Branum / The Lanthorn

More often than not, today’s society seems to focus on the things that separate individuals from one another rather than highlighting the aspects that bind them together. The Urban Institute for Contemporary Arts in downtown Grand Rapids aims to bring people together to find common ground through its newest exhibitions, Us is Them and Here + Now.

A reception held Friday, Jan. 27 unveiled both exhibitions with light refreshments, remarks from UICA exhibitions coordinator Heather Duffy and helpful tours conducted by volunteer docents throughout the gallery.

Us is Them, an exhibition that was first curated by the Pizzuti Collection in Columbus, Ohio, is comprised of over 50 pieces of original artwork by 42 international artists. Through their unique creations, these artists bring important and relevant topics to the public’s attention, including: political issues, religion and racism.

“Many of the artists are recognizable because they’ve achieved international renowned within their career, but it’s not an exhibition of just the brightest stars or the most famous pieces from (the artists’) collections; it’s not a ‘greatest hits show,” Duffy said. “There are many artists who are showing works that are from earlier in their careers, or maybe haven’t gotten as much play as some of the most popular works by the same artists, so (the exhibition) is really personal.”

The pieces in the exhibition, organized geographically, showcase a variety of mediums, including: intricate and colorful sculptures, emotional photography, video clips and paintings.

Duffy extended the opportunity presented by Us is Them to emerging African American visual and spoken-word artists, curators and performance artists, resulting in the collection Here + Now. This exhibition features a series of solo exhibitions, performances, a guest-curated group exhibition, community events and educational programs.

The driving force behind these exhibitions is more than just the thought-provoking pieces, it’s diversity. The artists all come from different backgrounds and maintain complex, intersectional identities. They’ve all come together to help the public reflect on important social justice issues and current affairs happening all over the world.

“It’s a really impactful show; it’s a powerful show,” said Katie Zychowski, UICA marketing coordinator. “As we exist in the political climate (present) right now, it’s a very relevant and very important show. With all of these things combined, you have artistic masters and the power that comes from experiencing these pieces, it ends up being an experience that should not be missed, really.”

Most of the pieces in the collection are meant to challenge viewers and spark a sense of responsibility. Instead of continuing to focus on the things that make each culture different from one another, Us is Them and Here + Now were designed to inspire people to think about the things that make the world a large community and realize the ways in which we are all connected.

Us is Them will remain on display in the gallery until Sunday, May 14 and Here + Now will be open until Friday, March 31.

For more information on the UICA and the exhibitions, visit: uica.org. 

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