Art. Downtown.: Fill your night with art

Artists of Grand Rapids will come together to celebrate their work during Art.Downtown.

With 30 downtown venues and more than 350 artists, the event is one of West Michigan's largest studio hops and invites guests of all ages to explore photography, film, paintings, glasswork and a new SiTE:LAB event.

"One of the things that's really great about this event is that it's very friendly and everyone's local," said Jenn Schaub, one of Art.Downtown.'s organizers. "It's not a competition-based exhibition. It's simply about artists showing their work to the public and having a dialogue."

Art.Downtown. lasts one night and runs from 6-11 p.m.

"You could pretty much do the entire event within the course of a night," Schaub said.

To make navigating simple, Art.Downtown. is bringing back the Grand Rapids Trolleys-three of them, in fact. The trolleys will shuttle people for free throughout the Heartside district, making seven stops at some of the night's major venues, including the Grand Rapids Art Museum (GRAM), Urban Institute for Contemporary Arts (UICA), West Michigan Center for the Arts and Technology (WMCAT), Avenue for the Arts, Kendall College and Kendall's graduate studios.

Located at Grandville and Wealthy, the Kendall studios display the work of roughly 30 graduate students.

"The up-and-coming artists of the community are really focused in that space," said Lydia Larson, Kendall professor and past Art.Downtown. participant.

The studios are open just once a year for this event, giving the public a glimpse into an otherwise-exclusive space.

SiTE:LAB is also working with about 100 artists to restore the abandoned 109.5 S. Division for the event. The building once housed a chapter of the Knights of Pythias, a secret fraternal order.

"The plan is to recreate, for one night, a secret fraternal society inside the former lodge," said GVSU Playwright Austin Bunn, who is working alongside SiTE:LAB for this event. "It's going to be an immersive theatrical experience."

Over the course of the night, established and improvisational Grand Rapids actors will perform a narrative throughout the building.

"The viewers can see this performance in any order," said Tom Clinton, SiTE:LAB exhibition coordinator. "This is actually intended to be viewed in a self-directed manner."

"I don't think Grand Rapids has seen anything like this before," added Bunn. "I think people will be really surprised to see what secrets Grand Rapids has."