There is more excitement for Grand Rapids tonight, and this week.  The Urban Institute for Contemporary Arts new home is finally opening, and it promises not to disappoint.

Dragana Crnjak’s new mural is an optical illusion on top of an optical illusion.

Viewed from the main level above, the work by the artist from Youngstown, Ohio, appears to be a three-dimensional installation on a normal-sized wall.

Jeffrey Kaczmarczyk writes in his Grand Rapids Press article that as you walk downstairs toward it, metallic dots in the mural flicker with the change of the light. Not until you’re standing in front of “The Day It Rained Silver” do you realize Crnjak’s creation is a two-dimensional shadow drawing, some 20 feet wide and 35 feet high.

The piece by the artist who participated in ArtPrize 2009 is one of several works intended to show off UICA’s new home as it opens its doors this week.

“This is not just another white-cube gallery space,” said UICA Executive Director Jeffrey Meeuwsen.

A milestone for UICA

It’s a milestone as well for UICA, Michigan’s largest interdisciplinary arts organization, as it moves into its fifth home in 34 years, offering greater visibility on a busy intersection as well as closer proximity to other arts institutions.

“It takes awhile to understand what UICA does,” said Meeuswen, executive director since 2002. “We’re so ready as an organization for the community to see what we can do.”

Grand opening is tonight with a ribbon cutting and an “Odd Ball” to show off the building that still was under construction last week.

“It’s more finished than it looks,” Meeuwsen said. “But it’ll be a ‘pardon our dust’ sneak preview.”

UICA is moving initially into 28,000 square feet of space that includes a 200-seat film theater, a ceramics studio and a youth studio. About 8,500 square feet of gallery space, of all shapes and sizes, will be spread throughout the building.

“Artists will be inspired to use the space in new and different ways,” Meeuwsen said.

UICA is moving into four levels of the building with two more to be occupied in the future.

Its film theater and ceramics studio are expected to open in the coming weeks.

The theater will be equipped to project both digital and 35-millimeter film. The ceramics studio will be used by nearby Kendall College of Art and Design.

Nearly $9 million has been raised to complete the first phase of UICA’s occupancy. Another $6 million will be needed to wrap up the $15 million project.

Dance, theater, art, sculpture

When UICA’s 40,000-square-foot project is complete, it will include a black box theater with a 24-foot-high ceiling and a sprung dance floor, two lounges, two reading areas, an artist-in-residence studio and a 3,500-square-foot outdoor sculpture terrace.

UICA’s “Odd Ball” on Monday will include tours of the building, live performances by local and national entertainers plus food and beverages by area restaurants.

Some 750 small works of donated art by artists from all over the world will be on display and for sale, each for $25. The exhibition title, “Seven X 11” refers to the date of July 2011 as well as the size of the word, in inches.

Meeuwsen said he expects UICA will inspire similar artistic events and activities in the future.

“I think West Michigan will be amazed,” he said. “It will be a great awakening.”

[Grand Rapids Press]