DeVos Place Art Gets A Start

July 7, 2008
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GRAND RAPIDS — The ongoing effort by the Convention and Arena Authority to fill the largely blank walls, hallways, nooks and crannies at DeVos Place with art pieces picked up some steam recently.

CAA Executive Director Rich MacKeigan, also SMG regional general manager, gave the board’s Operations Committee three options to fill the enclosed skywalk with art. The walkway stretches south from the convention center through the Amway Grand Plaza Hotel to the JW Marriott Hotel.

One option would have the CAA hold a photo contest with the winning shots to be hung along the skywalk walls. The photographs would have to be “iconic” images of West Michigan, and winning photographers would receive a cash prize. The board would pay to have the shots matted, framed and hung, an expense MacKeigan estimated at $50,000.

A second option would be to install a series of flat-screen TVs on the walkway showing an ongoing video mural that would feature portions of performances from the art tenants at DeVos Performance Hall, along with an audience’s reaction. Performers would be shown on one side of the skywalk with audience members on the other side to create a sense of realism for those traveling along the skywalk.

“I think we could have audio involved that would move with you through the building,” said MacKeigan. “This would be an expensive operation.”

MacKeigan said installing the TVs would be costly, between $100,000 and $150,000, and is looking for funding sources to help defray some of the board’s expense.

“That’s unique. People will remember that,” he said of the multi-media option. “In terms of this application, I’m not aware of (another) one.”

A third option is to solicit bids from local artists for works.

Milt Rohwer and Jim Day, both committee members, said they liked the photo contest. Day favored it because it would involve the community, and he said the board may not have to offer a cash prize to get local photographers to participate.

CAA board member and committee chairman Lew Chamberlin said more consideration needs to be given to the options.

“One and two are not mutually exclusive; you could do both,” he said. “But it is an issue of where the money is going to come from and how it fits into the budget.”

When the committee first began tackling the art issue in 2006, the estimated cost to fill DeVos Place with sculptures, photos and paintings was $2 million. But the most difficult section to fill was identified as the skywalk, and MacKeigan’s options give the committee a start on doing that.

“Any action from this committee would lead to an action plan,” said MacKeigan. “We’ll drill down a little bit more and come back to you at our next meeting.”

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