Starting last year, Calvin started to increase its emphasis on the arts, most noticeably by having a tab for the arts on its website. This page highlights art, English, music, theatre, graphic design, film and more. Calvin has also instituted a new scholarship program for incoming first-year students known as the Artist Collaborative. According to the New York Times, this reflects a recent trend in higher education. Elite campuses across the country have been constructing sprawling art museums and buildings dedicated to the arts. These spaces “are intended in part to help schools mend strains with their communities while appealing to students who ‘expect an advanced university to have an art museum.’” While Calvin College certainly cannot compete with the multi-million dollar structures being built at Harvard, Yale, Stanford and the like, there is opportunity to capitalize on this trend.
With the recent news that Calvin will be selling the Ladies Literary Club, a big concern being raised is that Calvin is losing its presence in downtown Grand Rapids. Chimes editor-in-chief, Lauren DeHaan, addressed this and other concerns in her recent editorial. She suggests that Calvin expand on another property it owns downtown, the 106 Gallery. She also suggests that Calvin expand on existing downtown partnerships. I believe that the 106 Gallery presents a great opportunity for Calvin. If Calvin were to expand upon the 106 Gallery, the expansion would further Calvin’s focus on the arts, help Calvin to compete with larger universities and increase its presence downtown.
The 106 Gallery is in a prime location on Division Avenue, one of the main streets in Grand Rapids. Division is also culturally interesting. There is a significant homeless population in the area and many community centers for homeless and low-income individuals, but it is also a place where many new businesses are moving. The 106 Gallery could be a way to serve both of those communities. It would appeal to the population that frequents many of the new businesses on Division and could also capitalize on ArtPrize and the popularity of the arts in Grand Rapids. It could also act as a launchpad to strengthen downtown partnerships and build new partnerships, while serving the homeless and low-income population from the heart of the city. Much of the focus on the arts at Calvin revolves around music, English and dance, and an increased focus on the 106 Gallery would provide a space for art to have a higher profile at Calvin.
The Times discusses the University of Chicago’s new art center that serves the university, but it also acts as a bridge between the university and the community. UC’s new art center has two entrances, one leading toward the university and another opening toward poorer neighborhoods that have long been ignored by the university. The university also displays the work of local residents in its new art center. This is the type of thing that would work for the 106 Gallery and would further Calvin’s mission of renewal.