World of Winter Festival expands in 2021 with new art, distanced events

Grand Rapids

A collage of images shows potential events and art coming to Grand Rapids for the 2021 World of Winter Festival. (Downtown Grand Rapids Inc.)

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — The World of Winter festival is getting a pandemic update that will bring more unprecedented art to Grand Rapids.

On Wednesday, the Downtown Development Authority approved up to $155,000 to expand the festival, adding social distantly features that “will give some wow factors,” according to Kimberly Van Driel, director of public space management for Downtown Grand Rapids Inc.

In February, the facade of the Civic Auditorium at DeVos Place will be illuminated in art during a projection mapping show created by Live Space. Van Driel says the show is a first for downtown Grand Rapids.

Newly added festival features also include the Singing Tree by Limbic Media — a light installation that reacts when people sing nearby. DGRI says Singing Tree will be installed at Canal Park.

The Ice Brigade will create ice luminaries that will line Gillett Bridge, lighting the way over the Grand River.

That’s in addition to three installations the DDA previously funded for the upcoming festival.

“Each year, we continue to grow,” Van Driel said.

Gone this year are group festivities like last year’s silent disco and the Human Hungry Hungry Hippos Tournament on Ice.

During the pandemic, DGRI is planning to livestream dance performances at two installations. Pop-up musical concerts, tribal storytelling, walking tours, ice games, ice sculptures, storefront art displays and a scavenger hunt are also on the schedule.

Depending on COVID-19 restrictions, DGRI may add snowshoeing, movie showings at Studio Park’s piazza, ice skating specials for couples and a livestreamed Lunar New Year Celebration, in collaboration with the Grand Rapids Asian Pacific Festival.

Despite pandemic challenges, this year’s World of Winter festival is scheduled to be the longest one yet, running Jan. 15 to Feb. 28 with more than three dozen programs and events.

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