Four Ways to Experience Arts and Culture in Grand Rapids

If you’re looking for unique arts and culture events, a visit to Grand Rapids is in order. From LiveArts, an extraordinary, collaborative stage production, to the amazing beauty of the new Richard and Helen DeVos Japanese Garden at Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park, you’ll want to catch everything that’s happening in Grand Rapids this spring.

Here are four ways to experience the arts on Michigan’s west side from Experience Grand Rapids. 

1. LiveArts

Screen Shot 2015-04-06 at 1.27.00 PMFor starters, you won’t want to miss LiveArts, a multi-media extravaganza about the vital role arts plays in our lives. LiveArts takes place at Van Andel Arena on April 24 and is a unique collaboration between the Grand Rapids Symphony, Symphony Chorus, Grand Rapids Symphony Youth Chorus, Grand Rapids Youth Symphony and Classical Orchestra, Grand Rapids Ballet, Opera Grand Rapids, and Broadway Grand Rapids.

The performance will include 1,500 performers and feature highlights from familiar music, like Andrew Lloyd Webber’s “The Phantom of the Opera” and Beethoven’s “Choral” Symphony No. 9, as well as dancing, visual effects, and more.

As you watch and listen, you’ll be drawn into the story of a young boy who discovers his passion for the cello and follow his journey as he attempts to master the instrument. Instead of taking place entirely on a traditional stage, LiveArts is creatively using multiple levels in the production.

Another unique component, says Roger Nelson, Vice President and COO for the Symphony, is the addition of visual elements. “In an ordinary concert presentation of the symphony, we ask people to use their imagination,” he says. “This show is different because in addition to hearing the music and watching the performers, people will see coordinated lighting, graphical images, and larger-than-life images of the performers.”

You can click here to read more about LiveArts in our first post on the event. Or, click here to buy tickets for LiveArts.

2. DisArt Festival

For 2 weeks, from April 10 – April 25, venues throughout Grand Rapids will host an international exhibition of artwork by artists with disabilities for the DisArt Festival. The 16-day festival will feature innovative work by over 35 international artists, with the aim of changing public perceptions about disability and connecting people through art.

DisArt logo[1]Head to the GRAM at 6PM on April 10th to hear the Curator Talk that kicks off the DisArt Festival, then join the fun at other kick-off events that will take place throughout the evening at a number of venues around Grand Rapids. During the festival, you’ll have the opportunity to view a film festival, a fashion show, several cultural education events, and dance performances as well as more traditional art exhibits. Check here for a complete list of DisArt Festival events.

When you visit the DisArts Festival you’ll also have the opportunity to see the U.S. premiere of Art of the Lived Experiment, which will be on display at three downtown locations: the Grand Rapids Art Museum (GRAM), Kendall College of Art and Design, and the Urban Institute for Contemporary Art (UICA). Art of the Lived Experiment was curated by artist Aaron Williamson for the U.K’s DaDaFest International 2014 and includes a range of artworks, from sculpture and painting to photography and ceramics, by artists from around the world. The collection will remain in Grand Rapids through July 31st

Another exhibition you can see both during and post-festival is artist Riva Lehrer’s The Risk Pictures. Lehrer’s work has been displayed at the United Nations and the National Museum of Women in the Arts in Washington, DC, among other locations. Visitors to Grand Rapids can see The Risk Pictures at The Richard App Gallery from April 11 – through June 30th. M

For more information, visit the DisArts Festival website.

3. The Discovery of King Tut Exhibit

For an entirely different kind of experience, check out the Grand Rapids Public Museum’s super cool exhibit, The Discovery of King Tut, which opens May 16 and runs through January 2016.

Photo courtesy of the Grand Rapids Public Museum

Photo courtesy of the Grand Rapids Public Museum

King Tut (short for Tutankhamen) became pharaoh when he was only 8-years old and died mysteriously about 11 years later. For unknown reasons, his name was erased from Egyptian monuments and he was all but forgotten until British archaeologist Howard Carter discovered his tomb in 1922.

Two parts comprise the exhibition at the Grand Rapids Public Museum: First, you’ll be transported, via media, thousands of years back in time to the world that existed when King Tut ruled. Next, you’ll learn how Howard Carter discovered his tomb all those years later.

The second part of the exhibition is a reproduction of the three incredible burial chambers discovered by Carter. The exhibit uses scientifically produced reconstructions of the chambers and their contents, so you’ll essentially see what Howard Carter saw when he made the discovery.

You can read more details and find ticket information on the GRPM website.

4. The Grand Opening of The Richard and Helen DeVos Japanese Garden at Frederik Meijer Gardens

Photo courtesy of Dean Van Dis

Photo courtesy of Dean Van Dis

If you’ve been to beautiful Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park, you’re not alone. With more than 550,000 visitors annually, it’s a destination that attracts people from all over the world to see sculptures by artists like Rodin and Moore, explore the latest gallery exhibits, play in the magnificent children’s gardens, enjoy Michigan’s largest tropical conservatory (wonderful anytime of year but especially nice to visit in the winter), take in a summer concert, or stroll through the bountiful outdoor gardens and—one of my kids favorites—Michigan’s Farm Garden.

Beginning June 13, 2015 visitors can add the 8 ½ acre Richard and Helen DeVos Japanese Garden to their list of must-see exhibits.

The Japanese garden represents the culmination of 3+ years of hard work, begun in 2012 following the initial idea proposed by Fred Meijer in 2009. Designed by Hoichi Kurisu, president and founder of Kurisu International, Inc., the Japanese garden is in an ideal setting that includes elevation changes in addition to a variety of horticultural elements, including scenic bridges and waterfalls. As you walk through and explore the new Japanese garden, you can expect to find tranquility and simplicity in its beauty.

Photo courtesy of Dean Van Dis

Photo courtesy of Dean Van Dis

In a departure from traditional Japanese gardens, the Richard and Helen DeVos Japanese Garden will also contain sculptures, in keeping with Frederik Meijer Gardens’ dual mission of horticulture and sculpture. To honor the essence of the Japanese garden tradition and philosophy, these contemporary sculptures will offer thoughtful and thought-providing aesthetics amidst the naturally peaceful setting.

For more information on the grand opening of The Richard and Helen DeVos Japanese Garden, click here.

So many events, all in one place: it’s time to experience Grand Rapids!

How the Grand Rapids Ballet Put a New Spin on The Nutcracker

Is The Nutcracker one of your yearly holiday traditions? This December, see it live at the Grand Rapids Ballet! Today, our guest blogger from Experience Grand Rapids shares how Michigan-born writer and illustrator Chris Van Allsburg and team put a new spin on an old favorite.

TheNutcrackerArtworkChris Van Allsburg, the East Grand Rapids native known for writing and illustrating books including The Polar Express and Jumanji, can add another credit to his impressive list. He, along with Tony and Emmy award winning set designer Eugene Lee and renowned choreographer Val Caniparoli, are giving new life to the Grand Rapids Ballet version of The Nutcracker under the direction of Grand Rapids Ballet (GRB) Artistic Director Patricia Barker.

Barker is quite fond of traditions. She was a principal dancer in the Pacific Northwest Ballet (PNB) production of The Nutcracker with set designs by children’s author Maurice Sendak. The lavish production became a holiday tradition in Seattle, and upon her arrival in Grand Rapids, she knew she wanted to create a similar tradition here.

Photo courtesy of The Grand Rapids Ballet

Photo courtesy of The Grand Rapids Ballet

It was Barker’s dream for a new Grand Rapids tradition that set the ball rolling. The Grand Rapids Ballet asked Van Allsburg to design The Nutcracker with his own vision two years ago. Although his daughter Sophia has danced the role of Clara with Festival Ballet Providence in Rhode Island, he still needed some “encouragement” from his wife Lisa along with friend and co-designer Eugene Lee to take on the project.

While Van Allsburg is not in Grand Rapids currently, Barker said he was an integral part in creating the aesthetic for this re-imagined production and is still involved. “I have been in conversation with Chris weekly, sometimes daily,” said Barker.

With the help of Barker’s German speaking husband, Barker and Caniparoli spent more than a year going over the E.T.A Hoffman story that The Nutcracker is based upon in its original German. And although the set design, production and costumes are all new, the heart of The Nutcracker remains the same.

Photo courtesy of the Grand Rapids Ballet

Photo courtesy of the Grand Rapids Ballet

Van Allsburg and Caniparoli were steadfast in their determination to focus on the original story of The Nutcracker. Eugene Lee also played a large role in ensuring from beginning to end the audience sees the complete story line of Clara coming of age and going through a wonderful adventure for all ages.

“We uncovered interesting nuances that have been lost over multiple translations such as architecture, clothing, embellishments, etc.,” said Barker. “But with that being said, there will still be recognizable plot lines from modern renditions of The Nutcracker.”

The spirit of The Nutcracker isn’t limited to Grand Rapids Ballet.

Opening Curtain - Photo courtesy of Grad Rapids Ballet

Opening Curtain – Photo courtesy of Grand Rapids Ballet

Hotels will be offering Nutcracker Season packages along with special “Land of Sweets” desserts and a Nutcracker Cocktail contest at participating restaurants and bars.

For a more behind the scenes look, from November 20-January 15 the Grand Rapids Art Museum will have original artwork on display illustrating the process of this amazing production, along with costumes and set models that will give insight on how a production goes from conception to stage.

So get your tickets and plan a trip to Grand Rapids to the world premiere performance of the largest production in Grand Rapids Ballet history starting December 12. You won’t be disappointed.

Have you ever seen a performance at the Grand Rapids Ballet? Tell us about it!

A Step-by-Step Guide to Experiencing ArtPrize 2014 in Grand Rapids

ArtPrize 2014 kicks off in just a couple of weeks! Grand Rapids will hum with creative energy across three square miles of downtown as artists and visitors from around the world flock to display and view the artwork.

Photo courtesy of Experience GR

Photo courtesy of Experience Grand Rapids

This world’s largest art competition boasts more than 4500 artists at 515 venues! If you’re heading to the event for the first time or want to see more of what the area has to offer, use this step-by-step guide for experiencing ArtPrize from Experience Grand Rapids.

The sixth year of ArtPrize®, held in Grand Rapids, Michigan, returns September 24-October 12. The largest art competition in the country will feature over 1,500 international works of art throughout a three square mile area. What truly sets ArtPrize apart though is the fact your vote helps select one of the winners of the $200,000 grand prize.

To help make your ArtPrize experience the best it can be, we’ve gathered the top five insider tips from experienced ArtPrize visitors both in and outside of Grand Rapids.

Plan Your Day

Stick-to-it-tive-ness Richard Morse 2012

Photo courtesy of Experience Grand Rapids

Visit the ArtPrize website to see all 1,536 entries and start planning your “must see” exhibits. If you have an iPhone, iPad or Android device, download the ArtPrize app to search for specific entries or discover art near you when you come to town. You can also vote through the app-no need to wait in line! If you can swing it, plan more than one day to visit. Grand Rapids is home to many hotels downtown and in outlying areas to meet your overnight needs.

Pick a Parking Spot

Getting to ArtPrize early in the day will give you the most parking options. There are many downtown surface lots to choose from, and the Monroe Center Ramp provides one free hour of parking if you arrive between 8 am and 6 pm. Downtown parking meters are free after 6 p.m. Monday-Friday and most meters are free Saturdays while all are on Sundays. Don’t carry change in your pocket? Create an account to pay for parking via your cell phone.

Bus in

Why drive your car into the city, when you can leave it at participating Meijer stores and ride the bus!? Starting September 17, you can pick up two ArtPrize wristbands for only $5 at participating Meijer stores.  These wristbands give you unlimited rides on all Rapid, DASH and Silver Line buses all 19 days of ArtPrize. Wristbands are also available at the HUB and all Exhibition Centers.

Avoid the Crowds…or Not

Photo by Amanda Baarmen

Photo by Amanda Baarmen

The early bird gets the worm and fewer people on the streets at ArtPrize. Getting to ArtPrize early especially on day one not only helps you beat the crowds, you may even get to meet a few of the artists and speak to them about their work. Another way to manage the crowds is to visit Monday-Thursday when crowds are significantly less. And if you are a member of Grand Rapids Art Museum (GRAM) you can get into GRAM two hours before the public to see nearly 20 ArtPrize entries.

But there is also an upside to additional people; especially when many are in town for the same reason. Being surround by likeminded people enjoying art, Grand Rapids and such a unique event can add energy and excitement to your day. Instead of “fighting the crowds,” soak in the amazing vibe of ArtPrize as you wander around the city and take it all in.

Explore ArtPrize

There are many ways to discover ArtPrize. To take any guesswork out of your day, download a self-guided tour for families and small groups available August 29. Speaking of groups, it’s a good idea to tour in smaller groups of two to four. Having fewer people to keep together makes it easier to get around. Then make plans with a larger group at a restaurant downtown to compare notes!

Another helpful tip is to bring your bicycle. Bikes make it easier to get to outlying venues and simply see more art since you can get from one venue to another that much quicker. You can also park a bit farther out of the city and ride in to avoid any parking jams.

Don’t forget to wear comfortable shoes and clothes to ensure you can access any venue. It’s also a good idea to bring a sweater or dress in layers. The weather can be a bit unpredictable near the lakeshore!

Time to Eat

Brewery Vivant - Photo courtesy of Experience Grand Rapids

Brewery Vivant – Photo courtesy of Experience Grand Rapids

While you are enjoying the cultural feast, it’s easy to forget to eat physical food. Luckily, with over 100 restaurants in the downtown area, finding a place for a bite and a beverage isn’t too hard.

Since Grand Rapids is Beer City USA, stop into one of the many brewpubs for a pint and a nice little lunch. Or grab something to go and eat outside in front of your favorite outdoor art.

Whichever way you decide to spend your time at ArtPrize, remember there is no one way to visit ArtPrize. Make the experience yours and have a blast.

Have you been to ArtPrize? Tell us your helpful tips and tricks for first-time ArtPrize visitors.