Urban Institute for Contemporary Arts

Abir Ali

When you invite the public to carve messages into a giant table you've spent four months crafting by hand, the result is that a LOT of people take you up on it, and the end product looks something like this:

Professional and personal partners Abir Ali and Andre Sandifer are furniture makers based in Detroit. They built a 30-foot table, made from walnut trees from the Midwest. They took inspiration from the biblical story of the Last Supper, and they were especially moved by the story's themes of trust and forgiveness.

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

The head of Michigan’s largest contemporary arts center has stepped down as part of a plan to stabilize the museum’s finances. The Urban Institute of Contemporary Arts in Grand Rapids is also cutting its hours.

The UICA’s board of directors voted on the restructuring plan this week to try to stabilize what they call a “declining financial situation”. But the board will not discuss details of the budget or the restructuring plan publicly.

Board President Kathryn Chaplow says the board has reached out to a small group of “major donors” to help with some immediate funding.

“It’s very rare for people to go through something like this. But with the way people step up its just overwhelming and its humbling. The UICA isn’t going anywhere,” Chaplow said.

The UICA’s executive director Jeff Meeuwsen has agreed to step down as part of the plan. He will stay on as a temporary consultant for up to 90 days. 

Chaplow says she hopes the cut in hours will be temporary. And she says the board will be seeking a new director.

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

This weekend the Grand Rapids Urban Institute for Contemporary Arts opens at its new location.

The UICA is the largest contemporary arts center in Michigan. With the new location, it’s one of largest in the country in terms of programs and square footage.

There are five floors, including a ceramic studio, two theaters, and a place for kids to create art. There are very unique gallery spaces; this is not your average, open, white, space gallery.

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

Grand Rapids Urban Institute for Contemporary Arts is moving into a new location. Its new home is only 2 blocks away from where it is now, so today volunteers lined up to help them move. More than 60 people created a human chain, passing one box along from one person to the next.

“You know we depend on volunteers,” UICA Executive Director Jeff Meeuwsen said, “We’re very community-oriented and we said right away, how can we involve people in our move?”