Avenue for the Arts, Grand Rapids
April 12, 6 p.m.
Free; $6-$8 for GRAM walking tours

Now in its fifth year, Art.Downtown. continues to bring artists and community members together to celebrate local art.

Lasting one night only April 12 from 6-11 p.m., Art.Downtown. has more than 30 downtown venues featuring more than 300 artists. A broad range of artwork is displayed, including ceramics, painting, photo, performance, music, film and more.

"I think that the thing to know about the event as a whole is that it's very eclectic," said Jenn Schaub, coordinator for Avenue for the Arts.

But one thing will be unifying the event: most of the artists participating have connections to the Grand Rapids region.

"I would say like, 99.9 percent are going to be local," Schaub said.

To help people navigate the event and fit as much as they can into the night, Art.Downtown. brings back the three Grand Rapids trolleys. The trolleys will stop at seven anchor locations including the Grand Rapids Art Museum (GRAM), Urban Institute for Contemporary Arts (UICA), Kendall College of Art and Design and Avenue for the Arts.

To further help, volunteers are at these sites to pass out maps. "Badges," a new feature this year, are also used to help attendees. These will show what media are displayed in a location.

Besides bringing artists and community members together, Art.Downtown. gives people the chance to connect with local artists and start a dialogue about the artwork.

"We do a lot to create an infrastructure where there is a conversation about the work that's hung in a space, not just hanging the work," Schaub said.

Most locations have a curator and a documenter who are there to spur on the conversion by asking the audience about what they are seeing, and how they are interacting with the show. Artists will be identified by nametags so people can talk about the work.

"[W]e're really hoping that is a way for people to engage, not just attend," Schaub said.

For people who want to get a more in-depth look at local and regional artists, Art.Downtown. is also partnering with the GRAM to do walking tours, which are $8 for the general public and $6 for members and artists.

"As participants tour Art.Downtown., led by an Avenue for the Arts insider, they will gain insight into the artistic process and what it means to be a local artist working in Grand Rapids, today," said Andrea Morgan, docent coordinator at the GRAM.

This two-hour tour begins in the GRAM galleries and moves on to other venues along the trolley route.

Jessica Hacker, volunteer coordinator for Art.Downtown. and curator at UICA, also hopes the event brings a sense of community and an appreciation for the arts.

She will take over the UICA's retail store as part of its new program this year. The UICA is inviting guest curators to resign the space however they like.

"The feel of the space is going to be really spring oriented" Hacker said." This is the time of year where I really miss nature so bad. I think most people have nostalgia for the outdoors, so it's going to be just a really inviting, welcoming feel with a lot of green (and live plants)."

To keep with the theme of Art.Downtown., Hacker is keeping the space "hyper-local" by giving preference to more than 20 artists who have a history of being active in the neighborhood surrounding the UICA.

"The products on display are going to be a range of local, handmade objects for the body, mind and home," she said.