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UICA to evoke sensory responses of seeing, hearing, feeling, smelling art with seventh ArtPrize exhibit

The public will have an exclusive opportunity to preview the exhibit on September 12 at OddBall, UICA's ArtPrize celebration and annual fundraiser.
Michael Peoples' "The Great Race"

Michael Peoples' "The Great Race" /Courtesy of UICA

Underwriting support from:

Additional Information

Urban Institute for Contemporary Arts:

2 Fulton St W, Grand Rapids Michigan

The gallery is open and free all throughout ArtPrize

Gallery Hours
Tues–Sat: 12:00 p.m. – 9:00 p.m.
Sun: 12:00 p.m. – 6:00 p.m.
Mon: Closed

Gallery Admission
Members: Free
Adults: $5
Five and under: Free

Sara Dittrich and Benjamin Buchanan's "Symphony of Gestures"

Sara Dittrich and Benjamin Buchanan's "Symphony of Gestures" /Courtesy of UICA

Heather Brammeier's "This Mortal Coil"

Heather Brammeier's "This Mortal Coil" /Courtesy of UICA

For ArtPrize’s seventh year, the (UICA) Urban Institute for Contemporary Arts, will host works of that are more than just what meets the eye. The title of the exhibit, “SENSE,” includes six selected pieces all rooted in creating various sensory experiences.

“The work included in 'SENSE' may activate any number of the senses including sight, smell, hearing, taste, touch and a sixth sense - intuition,” says Katie Zychowski, marketing and communications director at UICA. “UICA encourages guests to consider their own sensory experience when responding to the work included in our exhibition and we hope that this consideration is extended when experiencing artwork in the future as well.”

“SENSE” came about after the UICA recently hosted an international exhibition of contemporary Disability Art titled “Art of the Lived Experiment.”

“The exhibition was the centerpiece of the inaugural DisArt Festival and celebrated 2015 as the Year of Arts and Access in Grand Rapids declared by Mayor George Heartwell,” Zychowski says. “The theme and title 'SENSE' is a natural way to continue the conversation and consider how our community experiences artwork.”

She says that visitors of the exhibit are encouraged to consider how each of these senses impacts their experiences with contemporary art.

The team at UICA instituted more inclusive practices while partnering with DisArt Festival, DaDa Fest and other community organizations that work to increase accessibility in communities.

“UICA is dedicated to encompassing the spirit of the Year of Arts and Access and looks forward to demonstrating best practices for presenting work to our community and an audience of all abilities,” she says.

When asked if she feels the pieces in SENSE are open to interpretation as far as the sensory response each viewer experiences, Zychowski says “absolutely.” She explains that experiencing art is an incredibly varied sensory experience.

“Consider how someone who has low vision might experience artwork,” she says. “Perhaps the experience becomes more about the title and description of the work. Perhaps there are opportunities to touch the work and interpret the experience through your fingertips. It is important to note that we all bring our own perspective to a piece of artwork and even conversation and dialogue about the work can transform your experience. It’s a rather delicate thing, isn’t it?”

The exhibition was curated by Heather Duffy, UICA’s Exhibitions Curator. When choosing which pieces would be included in the exhibition, Duffy looked for work that would clearly fit into the parameters of "SENSE." She says the works included are site-specific and site-responsive.

“While each entry offers a multisensory experience that may engage any number of the senses, there is one primary artwork for each of the five senses, and one that is meant to be representative of all five senses,” she says.

There are six pieces by seven different artists in “SENSE.” The pieces are “Relic” by Tamara Kostianovsky, "This Mortal Coil" by Heather Brammeier, "Symphony of Gestures" by Sara Dittrich and Benjamin Buchanan, "Technician 3" by Charles Jevremovic, "(extra)ordinary" by Jihyun Hong and "The Great Race" by Michael Peoples. More information on these pieces, along with voting numbers, can be seen here.

“Many of the works included in 'SENSE' encourage a multi-sensory experience,” Zychowski says. “We are thrilled to present this exhibition and look forward to the dialogue and experiences our community will have as they engage with our exhibition."

Grand Haven-based artist Michael Peoples’ piece "The Great Race" creates an experience with smell. His installation consists of 200 wax ducks. The ducks range from "Outrageous Orange" to "Purple Pizzazz" and any other color that can be found in a crayon box. The installation will be presented along the stairwell. The wax used is a mixture of found candles and crayons. The scent of the crayons are meant to generate childhood memories.

Peoples started the project in February. His process includes cutting an oversized one-foot-long rubber duck in half and pouring layers upon layers of hot wax into the mold. From start to finish, one duck takes about four hours.

“It brings back childhood memories and has a lot of personal symbolism,” he says of the rubber duck-like figures. “And that’s just reinforced by the smell of the crayons.”

He says a previous project he did also included crayons, but did not think about, at the time, that people would respond so much to the smell.

“Something I ran into was that people had this great relationship to the smell,” Peoples says. “Smell is one of those things that brings back memories.”

Peoples started with mold making in 2010. He says he played with many different materials and processes and often tries to use discarded items. The crayons and candles he uses are all recycled. He says it’s a constant search of finding the materials to make his work.

Peoples will be attending this year’s OddBall at UICA, along with many of the other ArtPrize artists.

OddBall, UICA’s ArtPrize exhibition celebration and annual fundraiser, will be held on Saturday September 12 from 7 p.m. to 11 p.m. Anyone and everyone is welcome and encouraged to attend. OddBall is an exclusive chance to get a first look at UICA’s ArtPrize seven exhibition, "SENSE," before it is open to the public. Guests will be able to explore the galleries, meet some of the ArtPrize artists and enjoy live music.

This year’s theme of OddBall is “White Walls.” The theme is meant to create a minimal, unobtrusive background for the artwork that will be on display during the event.

“‘SENSE’ will be on view during OddBall and many, if not all of the artists, will actually be on site that night,” Zychowski says. “ It’s a great opportunity to meet and mingle with the artists and learn more about their work and artistic process. OddBall is such a great way to engage with the works on view and the artists in a celebratory atmosphere.”

Entertainment will be announced closer to the event date, but one of the ArtPrize pieces, “Symphony of Gestures,” incorporates the sense of sound and will be featured. Tickets for this event are now available and can be found here.

Zychowski says for UICA, partnering with a variety of organizations throughout the year is important in helping them achieve their goals and further their mission of building up the creative community, promoting collaboration and providing genuine experiences with contemporary art.

This year’s ArtPrize will take place from September 23 until October 11. The event covers three square miles of downtown Grand Rapids. UICA is one of over 160 venues that will host over 1500 pieces of art during those 19 days.

“ArtPrize transforms our city for two weeks, creating an energy and buzz focused around the arts that cannot be ignored,” Zychowski says. “We are proud to partner with ArtPrize to further emphasize the importance of contemporary art and increase awareness about the value of the creative community.”

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