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UICA opens in Grand Rapids with The Odd Ball

Just when I thought I couldn’t have any more fun in Grand Rapids, I attended the Opening of the new UICA building (Urban Institute of Contemporary Arts). It was smashing party aptly called The Odd Ball.

Full disclosure here.  I’m on the board of this innovative and creative arts organization in Grand Rapids, none-the-less I feel pretty comfortable with saying it was a pretty amazing event, especially for this solidly conservative midwestern city.

In fact, I repeatedly heard from friends who raved about the event that they “felt like they were in New York or San Francisco.”  It was definitely not a pigs in the blanket and wooden shoe-dancing affair.












The party committee blew up and attached hundreds of pink plastic beach balls to the outside walls, grabbing attention long before guests reached the entrance and were handed pink champagne in a pink can. Other creative folks painted pink swirls and big balls on the sidewalk.  I liked the way one pink circle of paint combined with shadow from a tree on the sidewalk.



The ambiance committee fashioned seven large chandeliers out of plastic pink cups and hung them hung dramatically in the long runway between the lobby and gallery space.  I think this made it hard to tell where “Art” stopped and “Décor” began.

Entertainment included a dj playing the soles o f shoes and an exotic and talented musician performing on an electric violin while an acrobat swirled up and down the two story space on a large drape of fabric, Cirque du Soleil style.

Dancers performed on cubes while guests enjoyed a creative new space filled with interesting and thought provoking art.  Large walls were painted by artists to be covered over with fresh work for ArtPrize, emphasizing the idea that contemporary art can be fleeting.  Carpe Diem.

Refreshments included tasty morsels from the best local eateries and lots of desserts served in what will become the uica ceramics studio.  My fav were the cake pops served on (real) grass-covered table.


Meandering through the party were models and actors, dressed to shock, delight and astound.  Part of the entertainment, they held the ribbon for the cutting by major donors and then paraded about through the festive space. The 500 guests mixed and mingled, examined the art, surveyed the building, enjoying a Monday night in the city.  How stimulating and fun to be a part of such a vibrant happening.









If you attended this party, please share your thoughts about it in the comment section. I’d love to know what you liked best.

Post Author
Susan J. Smith
Susan's career includes writing for newspapers, lots of community work and a wonderful family life. Now she is enjoying traveling, photography and writing for DesignDestinations and Grand Rapids Magazine. She welcomes you on her journey and appreciates your comments.


  1. posted by
    Aug 6, 2011 Reply

    This was definitely the event of the year! It made all the hard work and countless hours by everyone behind the scenes worth while! Congratulations to everyone!

  2. posted by
    Gary Justis
    Aug 6, 2011 Reply

    Susan, Thanks so much for this great piece on the UICA. I am Gary Justis and my collaborator is L J Douglas. We are the artists who installed “Plush Variables”, a work that contains three kinetic sculptures.

    I wanted to express our deepest appreciation for the work the fine people of UICA have done in making this wonderful building, community and event possible. We are honored to be included and we are excited about sustaining our relationship with this Institution for years to come! Thank You everyone!

  3. posted by
    Aug 7, 2011 Reply

    The party was fun and it was clear that people were having lots of fun in part, I think, because there were so many unpredictable things going on. Many people seemed to be taken up in the atmosphere in the delightful way that children are engaged by new ‘happenings’, really wondering what might appear just around the next corner.

    • posted by
      Aug 8, 2011 Reply

      Great way to describe the event.  Unpredictable.   Thanks for your comment.  

  4. posted by
    Aug 7, 2011 Reply

    The Odd Ball was a great idea, beautifully planned and implemented.  The outrageously fun costumes modeled with grand panache helped to create a party atmosphere.  Food was delicious, music was out of our listening realm, and perfect for the event. Loved the pink plastic cup chandeliers, seeing the space again, and beginning to see how it will be used.  We had a wonderful time, and we were very glad we went.   Lovely photo of the tree shadow with the pink sidewalk ball, Susan.

    • posted by
      Aug 8, 2011 Reply

      Thanks, Marie, I appreciate your kind words.  Glad you could attend the party. Susan 

  5. posted by
    postcard printing
    Aug 12, 2011 Reply

    It sounds like a really creative idea but sad to say, I missed the Odd Ball but my cousin told me that it was a lot of fun. I hope you’re going to have an oddball party again, I will attend next time.

  6. posted by
    Aug 12, 2011 Reply

    Thanks for mentioning Jason’s treats. We’re so glad to have met you through the committee and to know have a new friend. Your blog is excellent! Cheers! 

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