GVSU Arts Celebration to feature events throughout the year

Grand Valley is resuming its community arts celebration with a revamped timetable that will feature free art-related events throughout the year.

The GVSU Arts Celebration, formerly known as the Fall Arts Celebration, is set to feature art, music, poetry and an academic lecture in events that start Aug. 27 with a GVSU Art Gallery exhibition and finish with a lecture in April.

This year's celebration will preserve the spirit of the Fall Arts Celebration while spreading events throughout the year, said Amorak Huey, associate professor of writing and chair of the GVSU Arts Celebration's steering committee.



An artistic, colorful image of a cat
A piece from the first event, a GVSU Art Gallery exhibition: Reb Roberts (American, 1954-); "Cat Painting"; 2004; Acrylic on card stock; GVSU, 2017.1.16, Gift of Sheryl Budnik
Image Credit: Courtesy of GVSU Art Gallery

Huey said as organizers solidified plans for this year, they have been looking ahead to future celebrations and reimagining how they might take shape. He said more information about the transition is forthcoming. 

"The goal as we move forward is to preserve the same principle we have had: Let's celebrate the arts and find space where Grand Valley can promote the arts to the community," Huey said.

Organizers hope that spreading the events throughout the year will allow more people to access them, said Amorak Huey, chair of the GVSU Arts Celebration's steering committee. He noted that commitment to wide community participation is important to the celebration.

Huey said a central theme for this year's celebration is relevance and a reflection of the current climate, one dominated by the COVID-19 pandemic. For example, the holiday concert will focus on music from countries that are particularly affected by the pandemic.

"It seems like it's important for the events we have to feel timely and have contemporary urgency," Huey said.

Responses to those current issues are prominently displayed in the Art Gallery exhibition, "Honest and Unrefined: Art Outside the Academy." It runs from Aug. 27 to Nov. 5 at the GVSU Art Gallery in the Haas Center for Performing Arts on the Allendale Campus. 

The exhibition is the culmination of a nearly five-year effort to collect pieces that reflect the work of artists that ignore convention and tell their stories without the constraints of what others might think, said Nathan Kemler, director of GVSU Galleries and Collections.

"These are true voices coming through very directly," Kemler said. "Art tells a story, and the story that this kind of artwork tells is usually more immediate and unfiltered."


An artistic mask
Jerry Coker (American, 1938-); "Identity Mask"; n.d.; mixed media; on loan from Charlene Romanosky and Judith Hayner
Courtesy of the GVSU Art Gallery
Images of people and animals are drawn on a saw
Ivan Laycock (American, 1924-1997); "Saw with Figures Cavorting"; n.d.; acrylic and marker on saw; GVSU, 2017.1.41, Gift of Sheryl Budnik
Courtesy of the GVSU Art Gallery
A mixed media art pieces using pieces of license plates, a photo, drawings and nails
David Warmenhoven (American, 1967-); "Reverse Red"; 2006; mixed media; GVSU, 2017.1.43, Gift of Sheryl Budnik
Courtesy of the GVSU Art Gallery

The Art Gallery team worked closely with West Michigan artist Reb Roberts, who specializes in folk and outsider art, to help secure works, while also drawing from GVSU's permanent collection, Kemler said. The exhibition contains more than 80 pieces.

The pieces are particularly relevant as society comes through the pandemic, Kemler said. The artists address a wide range of issues, from serious health concerns to abuse to homelessness to power structures to gun violence to racism, along with "grief and death beauty and hope and the promise of what can be."

The artists may use materials such as bottle caps, cardboard or any kind of paint they can find to help them express their immediate response to something. Working through that expression tends to be more important than the means, Kemler said, and explains why so much of the genre is impactful.

He hopes people will consider the full scope of art when they see the exhibition. "Who tells our stories? Who are the authors of our stories? If established art is what we hold and collect from generation to generation, there are a lot of stories being lost."

The rest of the celebration's schedule is below. For more information, visit the GVSU Arts Celebration website.


Belated Birthday Party: Tesla String Quartet Performs Music by Beethoven

October 4, 2021, 7:30 p.m.

Cook-DeWitt Center

Allendale Campus


“Coming Together to Celebrate the Holidays,” featuring multiple choirs and orchestras

December 6, 2021, 7:30 p.m.

Fountain Street Church

24 Fountain St NE, Grand Rapids, MI 49503


Poetry Night: an evening with Danez Smith, Ericka “Kyd Kane” Thompson and Marcel “Fable the Poet,” Price all of whom also perform their work

March 14, 2022, 7 p.m. 

Eberhard Center, second floor

Pew Grand Rapids Campus 


Lecture: Hanif Abdurraqib with Louis Moore, professor of history, to moderate an interview/conversation. Abdurraqib is author of the book, "A Little Devil in America: Notes in Praise of Black Performance."

April 5, 2022, 7 p.m.

Eberhard Center, second floor

Pew Grand Rapids Campus