GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — The Urban Institute for Contemporary Arts (UICA) is marking its 40th anniversary with exhibitions that challenge issues of race, culture, and religion.
“We’re in a place in our community, in our region, and in our country where this work is necessary,” said UICA Exhibitions Curator Heather Duffy.
The UICA team planned the displays years ahead of the opening reception scheduled for Friday night; however, their decision to take on such heavy issues may spark a timely conversation.
Duffy called the soon-opening exhibitions her “dream show.”
UICA visitors will find two concurrent shows going on from Jan. 27 through May 31.
One is titled: Here + Now. It is a combination of works by up-and-coming African American artists and includes a variety of different types of art genres.
The other is titled: Us is Them. Miranda Krajniak, executive Director of the UICA, says it focuses on “what brings us together rather what really sets us apart.”
Krajniak told 24 Hour News 8 that inclusiveness was a main focus as they planned for their 40th year.
Various works from 42 international artists make up Us is Them, each of which carry a message of unity.
“If the function of art is to hold a mirror to society, that function is not working if we’re only holding a mirror to one type of person,” said Duffy.
“We [UICA] see our future being more diverse and accepting and promoting of different viewpoints,” Krajniak added.
Duffy said that 40 years ago art galleries gave a heavy preference to white male artists, but that’s continued to change. Officials at UICA hope visitors see that and are inspired, both in the art world and beyond.
“We’re in a place where everyone would benefit if we could take a step back and really focus on respecting the dignity of every human being,” Duffy said. “Art can take some of the weight off of those conversations.”
Duffy is the curator for Here + Now.
Us is Them has never traveled before until now. It was originally on display at the Pizzuti Collection in Columbus, Ohio.
Krajniak said the rest of the year will be sprinkled with surprises for their 40th anniversary.