GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — It’s mid-July in Grand Rapids but event organizers are already looking two seasons ahead.

“Oh my gosh, we’re talking about winter,” Downtown Development Authority Chairperson Rick Winn said during Wednesday morning’s meeting.

Downtown Grand Rapids Inc. is planning out the next World of Winter festival, which will run Jan. 6 to March 5. The DDA on Wednesday approved spending up to $250,000 to bring six art installations to the 2023 event, including:

House of Cards by OGE Group of Israel

(An image provided by Downtown Grand Rapids Inc. from OGE Group shows the House of Cards art installation.)

This installation features 128 light boxes created to look like cards stacked into the shape of a church on one side and building blocks from another angle. The card are choreographed to create different shapes as the music plays. OGE Group says it worked with more than 35 artists worldwide to create the installation, which will also include the work of 10 local artists when it’s on display for two months during World of Winter.

Angels of Freedom by OGE Group of Israel

(An image provided by Downtown Grand Rapids Inc. from OGE Group shows the Angels of Freedom art installation.)

Van Driel said this is a more “Instagrammable” installation with giant colorful illuminated wings that are accessible to people of all abilities and heights. Angels of Freedom will also be on display for two months during World of Winter.

Roaming and Gnoming by Amigo & Amigo of Australia

(Images provided by Downtown Grand Rapids Inc. from Amigo & Amigo shows the art installation Roaming and Gnoming.)

Celebrating international travel, these inflatable giant gnomes will appear in different sections of the city, so they look like they are on an exploratory trip. Visitors are encouraged to go on their own adventure finding each of the seven gnomes, which will be on display for a month during World of Winter.

“This is a brand new installation, it has never been anywhere yet except for Australia and they just released it last month, Van Driel said.

Affinity by Amigo & Amigo of Australia

(A photo provided by Downtown Grand Rapids Inc. from Amigo & Amigo shows the art installation called Affinity.)

This interactive light installation pays tribute to the human brain. Its creators say each globe represents a neuron and connection to the brain. When a visitor touches a globe, the color changes. The more people touch globes, the farther the light travels throughout the sculpture. Affinity will be on display for a month during World of Winter.

Talking Heads by Light Art Collection of the Netherlands

(An image provided by Downtown Grand Rapids Inc. from Light Art Collection shows the installation called Talking Heads.)

Created by Hungarian artist Viktor Vicsek, each head sculpture is equipped with roughly 4,000 individually controllable LEDs. The LEDS allow the sculptures to change expression and appear to be talking to each other. Talking Heads will be on display for two months during the festival.

(An image provided by Downtown Grand Rapids Inc. from Light Art Collection shows the Starry Night art installation.)

Starry Night by Light Art Collection of the Netherlands

Nearly 1,400 acrylic tubes have replaced brush strokes in this tribute to Vincent Van Gogh’s famous painting. Canal houses and trees replace the cypresses and town in this version created by Serbian Ivana Jelic and Pavle Petrovic. Starry Night will be on display for two months during World of Winter.

A DDA member pointed out that unlike previous festivals, this World of Winter is expected to feature two installations each from three groups.

“I’ve learned a lot from the last two years,” said DGRI Public Space Management Director Kimberly Van Driel.

She says having fewer traveling installation groups simplifies logistics and having more works from one group can lead to a discount.

“Our team is going to bring in a lot more art through local artists,” Van Driel said, adding the local grant program will open in the next month.

Art installations and games in downtown Grand Rapids for World of Winter on Jan. 8, 2022. (Michael Buck/WOOD TV8)

The nearly 200 events and features during World of Winter 2022 generated 4.4 million visits to the city early this year, according to cellphone data obtained by DGRI. That’s up 57% from the year prior, when the COVID-19 pandemic was running strong. But it’s still 31% lower than the festival’s pre-pandemic peak in early 2019.

While DGRI couldn’t give a definitive reason for lower numbers, Mayor Rosalynn Bliss suspects it’s because fewer people had returned to offices downtown to work.

“Tourism wasn’t, isn’t back to where it was so all those people are missing as well. So they’re finally coming back,” said the Downtown Development Authority chair, Winn, who is also the president of hotel management company AHC Hospitality.

(This photo provided by Downtown Grand Rapids Inc. shows the Seasonal Wonders projection mapping show by LiveSpace.)

Van Driel said the next steps for the festival are working with the Grand Rapids Parks Department to find the best locations for each installation and meeting with the Grand Rapids Arts Advisory Council for approval.

Van Driel said they’re also looking into bringing back art projection shows at a different location, since DeVos Place is too busy to host it.