The Rapidian

Free Radical Gallery

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Before there was ArtPrize, before there was ActiveSite, or ArtPeers, there was Free Radical.  The Free Radical Gallery started in 2000 on Wealthy as part of a grant based initiative, The Wealthy Mainstreet Program, founded by Mark Rumsey, which utilized vacant store fronts to display artwork in order to breathe life back into the Wealthy Street Business District. Ten years later we can see the effect that art, commerce and community has had on this vibrant business district. In 2003 the Free Radical moved to South Division where it evolved, changing the events from Free Radical to Avenue for the Arts. The original idea of the Free Radical has been utilized and re-shaped over the years.  Kendall College of Art and Design professor and former ActiveSite creative director, Paul Amenta, took the idea out more intentionally into the city spaces.  Involving student and local practicing artists, Amenta, began staging one night events in vacant commercial and industrial spaces.  These events and the host group have reformed over the last few years, eventually culminating in a show at the former Grand Rapids Public Museum titled “Michigan – Land of Riches” and the birth of a new non-for-profit group; Site:Lab.
           On October 22, we will see what happens when the children of the Free Radical, Avenue for the Arts and Site:Lab, get together to revive the potential of the Free Radical Galleries once again.  Taking place in both the Heartside and East Hills neighborhoods the event is shaping up to be an eccentric showcase of local art.
           Division Avenue between Weston and Williams, or Avenue for the Arts, will be taking over vacant storefront spaces to host local artists and student groups. Additionally, many of the galleries and businesses on the Avenue such as the DAAC, Sanctuary Folk Art, and Vertigo Music will have extended hours, gallery openings and host local artists. The artist live/work spaces will also open their doors to show and sell original pieces of artwork.
           As the East Hills neighborhood has transformed, it has become home to many galleries such as Byrneboehm Gallery, Richard App Gallery and soon LaFontsee Galleries. LaFontsee, which has been established in Grand Rapids for the last 20 years, has agreed to allow Site:Lab to throw an event in the new building prior to renovation. Site:Lab’s Paul Amenta said “This project will give us more creative control over the space then we have ever had before, you can expect much greater manipulation of the interior space then we have been able to do in the past.”  With the ability to remove walls, manipulate lighting, and bring in some of the most creative individuals in the city we can rest assured that this is the case.  Aside from just the LaFontsee Site:Lab venue, all of the galleries in the district will he holding openings and having extended hours as the neighborhood comes to life.
           Make sure that you mark your calendar because it is an event not to be missed!  With local bars and restaurants jumping on board you can be sure the city will be a buzz of life.  In addition to visual art there will be live music, access to venues normally closed to the public, eccentric street performances, sales of original work by local artists, and promotions and sales at businesses in all locations.  There will also be free transportation to run you between each major location so you don’t have to worry about parking or getting yourself all over the city. If you want to be in the know, and now, of the city make sure that this is an event you do not miss!

Free Radical Galleries: Heartside and East Hills.  Grand Rapids, MI. October 22, 2010
S. Division Avenue between Weston and Williams and Lake Dr. and Cherry St. between Eastern and Diamond. 5:00pm – 11:00pm

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