UICA, ArtWorks Work Together

May 26, 2006
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GRAND RAPIDS — Two staples in the art community are sharing their resources in hopes of serving more people while reducing expenses.

The Urban Institute for Contemporary Arts and ArtWorks have been partners almost since ArtWorks' inception five years ago, but now the two entities will become one with the job training organization moving into the UICA building. ArtWorks with youth ages 14 to 21 and focuses on fostering creativity, teaching work skills, and promoting community partnerships, while the UICA is an art research and development center.

"It just became more and more evident that the program could be even stronger and have an even broader impact if we worked together year-round," UICA Executive Director Jeffrey Meeuwsen said. "For the most part almost all programs will continue as they have been."

Meeuwsen said the next year will be spent on strategic planning, and the only change to the UICA may be a reduced schedule of events as the organizations adjust.

"I think what we may do is scale back just a little bit in terms of some of our programs so we can really focus on making this integration successful," he said. "It will be the same quality, just less of it as we find more ways to involve young people in the programs."

One of the ways to incorporate young people into the programs that already take place at UICA may be to build internships for high school students around the 20 to 30 visiting artists who appear at the galleries each year.

"There's just layer upon layer of things that can be done for relatively low costs, but that make the experience that much more powerful," Meeuwsen said.

Both organizations will save money by sharing space and expenses such as utilities.

"I think there are just many opportunities that will come out of this, because we will be so much more focused," Meeuwsen said. "I think both organizations first of all believe that the arts are incredibly powerful in terms of building a thriving community, in terms of quality of life, in terms of creating a work force that is highly creative."

Meeuwsen said the shift, which will be complete following ArtWorks' move from its former location at 1031 Wealthy St. SE to 41 Sheldon Blvd. SE on June 1, has been easy.

"We're all incredibly excited; it's been a very natural process and we've put a lot of time and thought into it," he said.

ArtWorks Board President John Preston agreed that the change is a good fit for both organizations.

"I think that we needed to have a bigger organization to be part of," he said.

Preston said he is not sure what the future will hold as the two organizations come together.

"I just think that the synergy between the two entities will dictate what happens moving forward," he said.

The ArtWorks board of directors will become an advisory board to the organization, and one of its members will serve on the UICA board as a liaison. 

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