CAA Must Include Business Art - Design Expertise

February 27, 2006
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The Grand Rapids Convention and Arena Authority is finally addressing what is an embarrassing oversight in regard to missing art at DeVos Place Convention Center. The vacant, vacuous spaces (indoor and outdoor) of the facility offer incredible opportunity to showcase Grand Rapids' legacy in the arts, which began with Alexander Calder's "La Grand Vitesse" in 1969.

Arts Council of Grand Rapids Executive Director Illiana Ordaz-Jefferies has offered to lead an effort to find — and fund — art pieces for the convention center, but the CAA must begin this serious, noble effort by getting out of the box of limited vision as it directs Ordaz-Jefferies' efforts. The business community will be asked to assist the funding of this effort, and it should not be left out or ignored for the vast talent and expertise it employs in this area.

To date, discussion seems centered on artists of Calder's and Maya Lin's stature, which is not disappointing. But plans also should include artists of stature in this community and this community's tremendous and rich heritage in design. The two are combined to a great degree in the past posters for Festival of the Arts (a fantastic representation of pride in this community for the nation's largest all-volunteer arts festival), and even those posters created by Herman Miller designers for the infamous annual corporate picnic, featuring highly regarded artists and designers known world-wide.

James Ludwig, Steelcase's director of design in North America, is internationally regarded and saluted by professional organizations as one of the top designers in America; Kevin Budelmann and Yang Kim have created BBK Studios, also of international repute. Norseman Games moved from Silicon Valley to Ferris State University offices in Grand Rapids; that this creative company resides in this community and gives Grand Rapids space on the map of the gaming world should not be overlooked. Nor should the vast expertise of GVSU Director of Galleries and Collections Henry Matthews, or that of Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park Curator of Sculpture Joseph Antenucci Becherer.

The first city in the nation to fund art in public should pay homage in these spaces to that legacy. Photography and sculpture by nationally and internationally known artists inhabiting the Ferris State University Kendall College of Art & Design must be called upon for offerings. Grand Valley State University staff members internationally known for animation arts and sculpture of varied media offer art of the new millennium, beyond what might traditionally be considered for such spaces.

Including the expertise of this community should be an important piece of the agenda for this vastly important project, likely to be given world viewing as visitors and convention guests are hosted at the facility. Certainly funding gifts also will be associated, but so, too, will new opportunities for those who toil in this metro area.    

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