Four hundred artists converged in downtown Grand Rapids last Saturday, showcasing work in over 30 locations across the city. The event, known as Art.Downtown, is an annual art festival hosted by Avenue for the Arts.
Many local businesses hosted artwork along the South Division corridor as well as other venues downtown such as the UICA, the GRAM, DeVos Place and Kendall College, among others. Three trolleys from the Grand Rapids Trolley Co. shuttled art-goers from one space to another, complete with animated trolley guides there to discuss art and give directions. Along with the trolley guides, volunteers from all over Grand Rapids joined in to make the event a success.
When asked about the festival, Avenue for the Arts intern Megan Galvin said, “Art.Downtown is very inclusive to first-time curators, exhibitors and artists…The festival is about creating a space for people who want to involve themselves in that community and display work on a larger scale.”
A wide variety of artists showcased work at the event, from first-timers to the curator of the UICA.
“The Avenue for the Arts acts as a subprogram of The Dwelling Place,” said Galvin. “The Dwelling Place is an affordable housing agency. The Avenue for the Arts acts as a catalyst for the Dwelling Place’s mission which is neighborhood revitalization for the South Division corridor.”
One festival-goer said, “Art.Downtown has existed before ArtPrize and the vibe is completely different. Art.Downtown is a festival to meet people where they are.”
The theme this year, “Artists Take Over,” was proudly displayed on signs, maps, trolleys and t-shirts across the city. Galvin spoke highly of the work Art.Downtown does for our community: “Art.Downtown is phenomenal because it takes the network of community that exists within Avenue for the Arts and allows for artists of different skill levels to involve themselves without some ridiculous resume.”
As an organization, The Dwelling Place has long been committed the urban core of the city. In 2003, they started researching plans for revitalizing the South Division corridor. Two years later, community members chose the name Avenue for the Arts to represent the area. Ever since, The Dwelling Place and the Avenue organization have been promoting and supporting South Division as an arts district by working to convert abandoned storefronts into spaces where artists can live and work.
“The Avenue for the Arts,” said Galvin, “has developed 15 different categories of programming that empower people through education, economic stimulus or community stimulus to create change.”
Galvin highlighted the importance of the event and what it does for artists in the area.
“These exhibits can be created, performed and ran by people who wouldn’t normally have the means,” she said. “Art.Downtown is a very fertile ground for good pieces and good people who wouldn’t otherwise have the economic resources.”
To find out more about Avenue for the Arts visit: www.avenueforthearts.com