After decades of public art, exhibitions, youth development and community programs, the contemporary arts institution space decided to close its doors permanently.
In an email to Urban Institute of Contemporary Arts (UICA) members on Thursday, Dec. 8, Ferris State University Kendall College of Art and Design (KCAD) President Tara McCrackin announced the closure of the art exhibition and community programming center after over 40 years.
Statements from KCAD and Ferris State University said the decision was “difficult,” and thanked the community for its support.
The announcement follows several rocky years for UICA. The organization struggled to keep afloat during and after COVID-19, closing temporarily in 2020 and relocating and downsizing its space in spring 2021.
“For the past decade, KCAD, Ferris State University and generous community donors have financially supported the UICA’s programming and overhead expenses,” McCrackin said. “However, the organization has not been able to overcome the obstacles it faced during the pandemic and was not able to maintain the funding necessary to remain operational or become sustainable.”
Added Bill Pink, president of Ferris State University, “This was a difficult decision to reach, as the UICA was the forerunner for the contemporary arts scene in Grand Rapids, but we are not leaving the scene, just changing our position.”
Pink went on to mention the pivotal role KCAD is playing in the future of Grand Rapids’ iconic ArtPrize, indicating the spirit of the institution would continue through new channels.
“Ferris is committed to continuing its investment in the arts community of Grand Rapids with KCAD’s leadership role in the next iteration of ArtPrize,” Pink said. “Also, the university as a whole is strengthening its footprint in the city, which we will share more about in 2023. The entire Ferris team is grateful to all the wonderful donors and supporters of UICA over the past four decades.”
McCrackin echoed his sentiment.
“Although UICA as an organization may be ending, its innovative spirit and focus on elevating contemporary arts and artists in West Michigan will continue in new ways with KCAD’s leadership role in the next iteration of ArtPrize,” she said.
According to a statement by the organization, tUICA will close March 3, with current exhibitions remaining open through Feb. 11.
Currently, UICA has five exhibits open; “Shimmerings of the Not Yet (T)Here,” by José Santiago Pérez; “Double Take,” by David Heo; and “EXTREMOPHILIA: A G’NATural History,” by Natalie G’NAT Wetzel and Mark Andrus, scheduled to close Feb. 11, as well as “Whereabouts: Sun Young Kang” and “Whereabouts: Egan Franks Holzhausen,” both previously scheduled to run into July.
“As the UICA winds down its operations, we have been working diligently to create and expand relationships with area arts organizations that support the contemporary arts to ensure a smooth transition as well as the continuation of some of its programming,” McCrackin said.
KCAD has taken on UICA’s gift store and Holiday Artists Market, continuing both operations, while the Open Projector Night Initiative has been rehomed to Wealthy Theatre.
“Since its founding more than 40 years ago, the UICA is credited with pioneering the contemporary arts in the region, and it has inspired the creation of some wonderful organizations that will now carry the torch forward,” McCrackin said. “Thank you for all of your support over the years and I hope you will stop by to see the UICA’s current exhibitions before they close in early February.”