UICA Celebrates 25 Years Young

April 22, 2002
| By Katy Rent |
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GRAND RAPIDS — Urban Institute for Contemporary Arts’ quarter century of existence isn’t just an anniversary — it’s a celebration.

“This is really going to be a celebration of everything the UICA is about,” said Tommy Allen, marketing and special events consultant for the UICA. “What we want to do is make it not so much about visual arts but to focus on everything that happens in the building, so for that night we will be presenting some surprise musical performances, showing some short films. We’ll have a couple of dance performances going on; performance art and literature will be represented. There is also currently a 25th anniversary visual art show that is up right now.”

It is being called a birthday celebration instead of an anniversary, he said, to celebrate the youth of the organization. On April 27, the party, held at the UICA, will offer guests a chance to sample Grand Rapids artists who represent a variety of disciplines.

UICA membership has climbed to 670, and officials are looking ahead to a positive future.

“We did hit some rough spots, and I think that at the end of last year all charities were down … and it was clear that we were going to take a hit — and we did take a hit in February,” Allen said. “But, for example, there were figures for events like Live Coverage where that event alone brought in $45,000. The events that we have, the money from those does go back into the main fund to support this organization. But we are not-for-profit so we rely on grants from every level: state, federal and also from local endowments. So I feel that when we see a return in consumer confidence, we will then see an upturn in the economy and in turn be faced with more donations and more grants that we are looking for.”

Meanwhile, the birthday celebration will bring new people into the facility, initiating new memberships and demonstrating how important the contemporary arts are to the community.

Angus Campbell, chef at The Heritage restaurant, artist Lisa Kowalski and Grand Rapids Magazine Managing Editor Cara Kissling will judge a creative food competition. Chefs from San Chez, Rose’s, Thousand Oaks, Pietro’s, Sierra Room, Club 1894, Gibson’s and One Trick Pony will cook up beautiful and edible displays that each partygoer can sample and then vote on. Awards for best of show and people’s choice will be handed out during the evening.

“This isn’t going to be a traditional fundraiser or event like we have done. We are celebrating local art and local places in the community, right down to the wine,” Allen said.

The wine served will be from local wineries and the beer will come from local breweries. “We want to highlight Grand Rapids in a creative way, and displaying some of the area’s best art, food and drink is an excellent way to do it, not mention not a bad way to celebrate a 25th birthday,” said Allen. Desserts Etc. will donate the birthday cake.

Lifestyle packages will be auctioned off as part of the celebration, aimed at raising funds for the UICA. Items including a day of pampering, a martini party, a weekend getaway, a night on the town and a sports day will be auctioned off. The auction will also include a Steelcase Turnstone martini table, which debuted last year, and artwork by Michael Pfleghaar entitled “41 Sheldon,” which is UICA’s street address.

The event is free to members and $25 for non-members, but Allen said non-members are encouraged to join UICA and enjoy a year’s worth of fun for their $25 as opposed to one night — for the same price.

“We will be having a lot of our areas that have traditionally not been involved in these fundraising events, and I think it is really important that we do a birthday party to acknowledge the strength of UICA and what it is,” said Allen. “After all, the facility is local and we really highlight Michigan. And we are the largest cultural arts center on this side of Michigan and maybe in the region. Nobody has the programming to match what we do.”           

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