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Art that Clears You Up Inside

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“Art has a way of clearing you up inside,” artist and Heartside resident Crystal Coleman explains. “Sometimes I get down…. Depending on which mood I’m in, that’s how I do my work. It calms me down, it soothes me, it reassures me. It’s really important to me.”

UICA Or Does it Explode Now On Display

The Harlem Renaissance poet Langston Hughes closes his famous poem, Harlem (Dream Deferred), with “or does it explode,” leaving the open-ended idea to be contemplated. Join us on First Friday and explore new exibitions at the UICA and Heartside Resident artworks that respond to the famous words of this timeless poem.

/Image from resident group exhibition

/Heartside Residents participate in a behind the scenes tour of the UICA

Opening this Friday, April 5, at Urban Institute of Contemporary Art, a collection of artwork created by Dwelling Place residents will be on display in conjunction with UICA’s current exhibition “Or Does It Explode.


“You get these glimpses into people's’ lives and that’s something I had really hoped would come out of [the project]… I’m just so impressed by what everyone made,” expressed local artist Zachary Trebellas while reflecting on the exhibition. Throughout the winter months, Trebellas worked with Dwelling Place and UICA to create curriculum and facilitate a four week long series of photography workshops that were offered to Dwelling Place residents. These workshops, which were paired with a behind-the-scenes tour, were intended to empower Heartside residents to stay connected with the culture of their community and elevate their artistic voices.


“Art has a way of clearing you up inside,” artist and Heartside resident Crystal Coleman explains. “Sometimes I get down…. Depending on which mood I’m in, that’s how I do my work. It calms me down, it soothes me, it reassures me. It’s really important to me.” Coleman is an artist and Dwelling Place resident who participated in the photography workshops and will have her work on display as a part of the group exhibition.


“I definitely see the value of how art has changed peoples’ lives.” Coleman declares.

The workshops were designed around creating work in response to the timeless poem “Harlem (A Dream Deferred)” by Langston Hughes, and encouraged residents to think about a personal dream they have had in life. Residents responded to the poem by writing an original line of text and creating an abstract photography portrait. The elements were combined to create a series of artworks that showcased Heartside neighbors’ interpretation of and reaction to the poem through sharing their own experiences of having, losing, holding onto, or letting go of a dream in their own lives.


“I was so impressed with the people that did participate, and what they created. They had these great responses to the prompts,” teaching artist Zachary Trebellas shared while hanging the show at UICA days before the opening event. “As someone who works with participants through artwork a lot, that’s the best I can hope for—that they can get into it and feel like they’re getting something out of it.” Trebellas has been working with Heartside neighbors for a few years through various arts programming at Dwelling Place, the UICA, and Heartside Ministry.


“The goal of this project was to get neighbors out of their apartments to socialize more with each other,” said Trebellas, “and also to get people more familiar with UICA now that they are a member of the Museums for All program.” Last year, UICA followed in the footsteps of the Children’s Museum and Grand Rapids Art Museum and joined the nationwide Museums for All initiative, which allows anyone who is an EBT cardholder free or reduced admission to museums. This decision was made after years of conducting surveys to identify the basic demographics of museum visitors. Through those data, UICA has been able to connect the dots between the demographics of who is visiting the museum and who is not.


Katherine Williams, Community Programs Coordinator at UICA, has been working to address the unbalance of museum visitors within the Grand Rapids community. “Historically, museums, institutions, and galleries that put on exhibitions of display have been inaccessible; they have been very much driven for an exclusive class,” she explains. “In understanding the history there, you can quickly identify that cost is a huge barrier to so many communities.”


But cost is only one of many barriers that organizations like UICA and Dwelling Place have identified when it comes to paying attention to the unbalance of demographics who visit institutions such as museums. In 2017, the Heartside Community Meal was facilitated by UICA and Dwelling Place as a part of ArtPrize 9. A key takeaway for both organizations was around the significance of nurturing community relationships as a way to build equitable bridges for underserved communities.


“Relationships only exist when they are maintained and continuous. They don’t happen overnight, you have to nurture them,” Williams said. When considering residents who may typically feel unwelcome to participate, Williams stressed that presence of an established relationship can be the key to neighbors feeling empowered to join. “This partnership in the workshop series and the group exhibition allowed us to bring in a teaching artist who could replicate that, someone who could be a recurring figure that residents could talk with and learn from and feel comfortable expressing themselves with. That is what it means to create a safe space.”


Come see the work and participate in an informal workshop Frist Friday, April 5, 2019 from 6-9pm at the UICA, located at 2 West Fulton. Grant funds provided by the Michigan Council for Arts and Cultural Affairs through the State of Michigan!


With a mission to improve the lives of people by creating quality affordable housing, providing essential support services and serving as a catalyst for neighborhood revitalization, Dwelling Place serves families and people in 4 counties across West Michigan. Dwelling Place is powered by volunteers and numerous staff persons, guest writers create our Rapidian content. Special thanks to Community Arts Organizer, local musician and artist Vanessa DeCouto for her support of the 2019 Community Arts Programming at Dwelling Place.


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