O.D. on Art

First Fridays
Avenue for the Arts
South Divison
Oct. 4, 6-10 p.m.
Free; avenueforthearts.com

During the first week of October, art transforms downtown Grand Rapids into a pretty frickin' crazy place. There's stuff everywhere, and the cause [ArtPrize] pretty much provides the context for talk about art for the three weeks it takes over town. So, in the spirit of art's magnificent role in civic life, this month's featured event is something happening in the one place in town that has made art its mission.

Avenue for the Arts is hosting First Fridays of the Month on, yup, you guessed it, Oct. 4 (the first Friday). It's a gallery walk where artists and businesses open their doors and their hearts to encourage the community to come down and see what all the fuss is about on South Division.

There are four galleries that are part of the original collaboration: Crafthouse, Gaspard Gallery, Mexicains Sans Frontieres and Calvin's (106) Gallery. In addition to the galleries, a handful of the street's businesses are involved and will offer specials and celebrations through the night. Anyone who comes down and visits the spaces will receive a punchcard that can be stamped and then brought to Pub 43 to redeem a drink special. Retailers Vertigo Music, Have Company and Parliament Boutique as well as fitness/martial arts center Shen Dojo will all have extended hours and entertainment.

Gallery hops are nothing new for the art hub. The area is home to annual Art.Downtown and buzzworthy Free Radical events, which have been giving life to some of the empty spaces along the street for quite some time.

Now that the empty spaces are becoming less bountiful (oh hey, redevelopment), First Fridays organizer Amanda Carmer says it's the perfect time to come pay a visit to the city's creative corridor, especially if you've never been before.

"The redevelopment is a double-edge sword," she said. "It's created a lot of talk about the area, and the changes that are happening are making people come down to the area that typically would not before."

But it also meant a big loss in the case of the Avenue spearhead, The DAAC, having to close its doors and move.

"The DAAC was a really positive influence on the community," Carmer said.

Yet, she said organizers are confident that First Fridays will help solidify the street's reputation as a place where business and culture can collide and do great things. Collaboration is always at the heart of events the Avenue hosts, and they wanted to make sure First Fridays was not just about the gallery spaces, Carmer said.

"Having it just be galleries is very limiting, we want to broaden the outreach."

She also said that having this month's event at the tail end of ArtPrize will hopefully bring in some people that have never made the trek down Division.

"The purpose is for people who are unfamiliar to see what's going on. Yeah, it's scary to approach someone you've never met, but whoever is inside these spaces is going to be really excited to tell you what they're doing."

Carmer said the 10 venues have agreed to host the evenings through February, then reassess and move forward.

"We'll always be looking for ways to improve and draw more people in."

Now, don't be shy.

Other Art Events

Pulso: Arte de los Américas/Art of the Americas – Opening Reception
UICA and the FED Galleries at KCAD
Oct. 30, 6-9 p.m.
uica.org, kcad.edu/galleries

Pulso is rooted in an exploration of the ways in which regional boundaries affect the perception of art. While the artists involved all have ties to Latin America, this collaborative exhibition frees itself from the confines of such labels by allowing the diversity of medium and subject matter to challenge cultural preconceptions of contemporary art and strengthen the dialogue among artists, both locally and globally.

BOO! Images of the Macabre
Kalamazoo Institute of Arts
Oct. 5-Jan. 26
Admission: $5, students $2

In the spirit of all things creepy, the KIA reveals its most spooky and unnerving works from the darkest corners of the vault. Featured are works that explore eerie landscapes, ghostly figures and other mysterious intersections of reality and imagination.

OFRENDA Installation by Roli Mancera
Holland Area Arts Council
Mainstreet Gallery
Through Nov. 2

According to centuries-old beliefs, the souls of the dead return to Earth for one day of the year. Now is time for families to begin setting up the traditional altar de muertos, an offering of items intended to ease their departed loved one's journey. Roli Mancera's installation examines key elements of the ofrenda, and celebrates El Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead), which falls on Nov. 1.