“Beacons: An Exhibition of Luminous Art”

One of the most interesting things I have done recently is to visit the Beacons exhibit at the Urban Institute of Contemporary Arts in my hometown of Grand Rapids.  Yes, the city decreed as “dying” by Newsweek.

What an outcry of rage that as engendered.  Holy Cow.  What a major brouhaha.   But I digress. Read this response from our mayor if you want to know why Grand Rapidians are so annoyed. Hopefully no major media will make that mistake again.

Full disclosure here.  I serve on the board of UICA and enjoy the many interesting exhibits and events, but the one that is currently in soon-to-be-former home o f this energetic arts organization really grabbed my attention.  It could easily hold its own in New York or Paris or any city with a focus on the arts.

The exhibit, called “Beacons: An Exhibition of Luminous Art” is perfect for us in Michigan. As the introduction to the exhibit says, “Winter in West Michigan is a season of shortened days, grey skies and long, dark nights.  This exhibition embraces winter’s darkness and showcases the light that artists can bring to bear upon this often bleak time o f year.”

Says it all. It is really stimulating and interesting to look at the myriad of ways that artists from as far away as Iceland interpreted the challenge by creating an exhibit of film and video projections, light installations, sound installations, images and objects around this theme. I am sorry it will only be on view until Feb. 13.

I went to see it twice.  It felt cool to see the exhibit  at the opening party where  young hipsters and aging baby boomers alike meandered the dimly lit space, cocktails in hand, sporting jelly rings and flickering glow sticks.  I felt like I could have been in a gallery in the trendy Meatpacking District of NYC or River North in Chicago.

I went back on a quieter night when I got out my cell phone and followed the prompts to hear artist’s make statements about the work, trying to understand the rationale behind each piece.  I’m often bewildered by contemporary art.  Hearing the view of the artist is, ha ha, enlightening.

I take it all seriously though.  The mission of UICA is to foster emerging artists. Creativity and experimentation abound, admirable to me even when difficult to decipher.

For more photos of the artwork, lists of artists and information about Urban Institute of Contemporary Arts, head to the web site and enjoy.  Better yet, hustle on down to the UICA and see for yourself before it is as one artist proclaims, ” Gone. ”

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6 Responses to “Beacons: An Exhibition of Luminous Art”

  1. Susan Brennan says:


    Lovely but you really really must come to Florida to see this before you give a definitive answer that all is the best in GR!! New blog from St. Pete in your future soon?

    Double down

    Chihuly Collection, Dali Museum draw art lovers to Florida

    By Associated Press
    Sunday, January 23, 2011 – Updated 6 days ago
    E-mail Print (0) Comments Text size Share Buzz up!
    ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Dali, Chihuly and Degas?

    It’s possible to see all three in one weekend in the Tampa Bay area — and still have time to savor the beach. The opening of the new Salvador Dali Museum in St. Petersburg this month is the latest in a string of splashy arts venues on Florida’s west coast. The $33 million Tampa Museum of Art — soon to host a Degas show — opened in February of 2010. And the Chihuly Collection, a permanent gallery devoted to the vibrant glassworks of Washington artist Dale Chihuly, was unveiled across the bay in St. Petersburg in July.

    Love ya, Susie

  2. Glynn Ann Ruggeri says:

    Love reading thesse! Like having a personal travel agent! Thank you for informing us all. Passed your info on to Kim Cornetet for your NYC Eataly blog as you could describe it so much better than I-and with photos! Stay Warm! ~Glynn Ann

  3. sallie bowie says:

    I love your posts. In this winter greyness, I feel as if I am traveling to other places with much warmer and sunnier adventures. And down with GR being dead… This is our secret. UICA is exciting . Keep it up….

  4. Wow! I have always loved UICA. This exhibit is part of the reason. And my what a commentary from George Hearwell on Newsweek’s gaff. It is a shame that it probably won’t get printed in Newsweek because it shows how poorly their publication is crafted.

    Keep up the good work of publicizing what’s really happening in GR!
    Go Blue-Green!

  5. Another inspired and inspiring piece. Must. Go. See. And…
    Happy, Happy Birthday to my favorite blogger and all around fabulous lady!

  6. smithsj says:

    Thank you, Melanie. Appreciate the kind words about my blog and for the birthday wishes.

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