GRAND RAPIDS — The Urban Institute for Contemporary Arts plans to relocate and sell its building at 2 Fulton St. SW after financially struggling to maintain the facility over the last few months during the COVID-19 pandemic and state shutdown.
The UICA will put its building up for sale this fall and move its operations to the Woodbridge N. Ferris building at 17 Pearl St., which is on the campus of Kendall College of Art and Design of Ferris State University. The building currently serves as a gallery space for Kendall.
The organization has been on a hiatus since March because of the coronavirus, resulting in no revenue coming in from operations. UICA also recently laid off three people, citing financial shortfalls attributed to the pandemic.
The decision to move buildings was finalized June 17 by the Ferris State board of trustees.
The move is expected to take place in spring 2021, and all in-person UICA programming — which has been put on pause for COVID-19 — will continue to be on hiatus until the organization reopens in the Ferris building.
Despite the changes, executives at UICA say the organization’s mission is expected to remain the same, although the new location will not feature a movie theater. Executives still need to finalize more decisions around the move, according to a UICA spokesperson, and they are working on offering outdoor movies and panels.
“The impact of COVID-19 has led us to rethink how we work and provide programming in the future, and I’m confident our re-envisioning of UICA will help it succeed,” said Kendall College Interim President Tara McCrackin. “We realize this is an unexpected announcement, but we believe it is a necessary move to ensure UICA continues to be a leading cultural arts destination in Grand Rapids.”
A university-wide review of all programming, and subsequent conversations between Ferris, Kendall and UICA leadership, concluded that UICA’s current location is too large and expensive for the university to maintain going forward, according to a Ferris press release.
The intent is to immediately adjust the space at Kendall College’s Ferris Building to accommodate UICA’s public art offerings, including activating an outdoor area for the downtown and student community.
Although the location will be different, UICA’s exhibitions and programs will continue to present the voices of people who have been oppressed, marginalized and exploited by society.
“We pledge to continue to work to recognize and act against the inequities that systematically hurt artists, neighbors, and diverse communities and to show work that reflects our entire community,” said UICA Executive Director Miranda Krajniak.
The Woodbridge N. Ferris building previously housed the Fed Gallery and the Grand Rapids Art Museum.
The UICA previously faced financial challenges related to the debt load it incurred upon its move into the $8 million 2 Fulton Street building just as the Great Recession hit, as MiBiz previously reported. Weighed down by $3.9 million in debt, the UICA — then structured as a nonprofit — restructured its operations and ultimately sought a partner that would help it gain financial footing, merging with Kendall College in 2013.
With the help of donors, Kendall and Ferris State reduced the UICA’s debt to $1 million at the time of the merger.