This week, Calvin College announced that it would not be renewing the lease of the (106) Gallery downtown, a property the institution has occupied for eleven years.
“While this is undoubtedly disappointing news, it is likely not entirely surprising, as the possibility was noted during the prioritization process,” Provost Cheryl Brandsen wrote in this past Monday’s academic bulletin. Calvin’s on-campus visual arts display space, the Center Art Gallery, will remain in the Covenant Fine Arts Center, where it has resided since 2010.
In a press release, Brandsen and Sally Vander Ploeg, the vice president for administration and finance, described the discussions leading up to the news:
“This decision was not made lightly. Calvin administrators, faculty and staff have been meeting for more than a year to discuss the future of the (106) Gallery.”
The off-campus space, located on Division Street in the Heartside Neighborhood, has long served as one of the college’s most prominent physical presence in downtown Grand Rapids. The space has hosted recent events such as talks by artist Makoto Fujimura and photojournalist Tom Olin, pieces by performance artist Brianna Baurichter as well as several open studio nights. This fall alone, it will host over a dozen ArtPrize entries, drawing hundreds of people to enter and perhaps cast a vote.
“On average, we had about 10,000 visitors a year at [the (106)] Gallery. That’s a substantial amount of traffic and visibility,” said Joel Zwart, Calvin College director of exhibitions.
“My challenge now,” he said, “is how do we keep reaching out even though we don’t have a gallery space downtown? How do …we contribute to the conversation, in some way, about how arts and culture are alive and well in Grand Rapids?”
Five working groups of Calvin faculty, administrators and staff, commissioned by Dean Elizabeth Vander Lei, hope to help the art department answer these difficult questions. In particular, the Messaging the Arts and Building Strategic Community Partnerships team plans to present “recommendations for the college’s continued contributions to the arts in downtown Grand Rapids” by the close of the fall semester.
Faculty art studios, formerly housed in (106), will join the Center for Social Research and Center for Christian Scholarship in the Raybrook Building, just 0.4 miles from campus.
“The space is roomy enough to accommodate small groups of students for advanced instruction or for other gatherings,” the Office of the Provost commented. Renovations will help dedicate new areas for the visual arts, with a planned move-in date in early spring.
“From a positive standpoint, faculty studios will be very accessible and close-by,” Zwart noted. This shortened distance offers the “opportunity for faculty to take their class to the studio to talk about their own practice.” Previously, such tours would require a twenty-minute drive; in the future, they will only require a short walk.
Meanwhile, the (106) Gallery will be hosting its last show, “Inked, Pressed, Cut, & Sewn”, from September 23 to October 9. A formal reception, featuring the artists and a few refreshments, will be held on opening night. Extended hours will also be offered during the ArtPrize season, and visitors may view the artists’ creations from 12–6 p.m. on Sunday and 12–8 p.m. Monday – Saturday.