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Contemporary Conversations

ArtPrize Artist Feature: Seitu Jones

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Working independently or with others, Seitu Jones has created over 30 large-scale public artworks and was millennium artist-in-residence for 651 Arts in Brooklyn, NY and was the City of Minneapolis’ first Artist-in-Residence. Jones has been awarded a number of prestigious designations and currently teaches Urban Food Systems at the University of Minnesota and is on the faculty of Goddard College in Port Townsend, WA.

On September 23, Heartside residents are invited to take part in a community meal presented by Seitu Jones, UICA, and a number of community partners. Guests of the event will enjoy a meal prepared by Grand Rapids chefs with ingredients cultivated from local gardens and farms on a tablescape designed by Seitu Jones and created by students, collaborators, and volunteers. 

The 250-seat community meal will unite neighbors, illuminate similarities and connections, and encourage guests to share food stories and participate in over the table conversations about food traditions, attitudes, food justice, rituals, and access while celebrating our diverse neighborhood.

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Have you participated in ArtPrize before? What drew you to participate this year?

This is the first time I’ve participated in ArtPrize and was drawn to create the Collard Green Shrine as a part of the Heartside meal commission.

ArtPrize is a popular, city-wide event. What are you most excited about during this unique art-viewing experience?

I’m excited to see and experience the work of artists from around the globe.

UICA’s exhibition is centered around food. Does your work use food as a theme or lens traditionally or is this new territory for you?

I’ve been working almost my entire career to blend art and nature and began to explore the food system. It is my goal as an artist to make the invisible, visible and I attempt to do that with the food system by making artistic interventions.

Who or what has been the biggest single influence on your way of thinking?

My family’s food traditions, George Washington Carver, and the Black Panther Party’s free breakfast program.

Where else have you exhibited your work? Is there a project or exhibition that stands out in your mind as your greatest accomplishment?

While I’ve exhibited across the country, I’ve created Collard Green Shrines at Project Rowhouse in Houston, TX; Bates College Museum in Lewsiston, ME and the University Research and Outreach Center. My most important work is always the piece I’m working on right now.

What new projects do you have on the horizon?

I’m completing the construction of a research vessel for the Mississippi River in the Twin Cities. The boat will be a floating sculpture designed to monitor and observe the health of the river.

Looking for more?

The Heartside Community Meal is an official ArtPrize Nine entry in the time-based category. Cultivate, UICA's ArtPrize Nine exhibition, is a curated group show that uses food as a lens to examine cultural history, social equity, and the effects of globalization on communities. 

Seitu Jones      
The Heartside Community Meal
Category: Time-based                                
Vote Code: 66414
Current City: St. Paul, MN, U


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Now Seeking Volunteers.

Seitu Jones and UICA are currently seeking support from community members interested in volunteering during the Heartside Community Meal. A number of volunteer positions and shifts are currently available.

Register to volunteer here.  

Attendance at a volunteer training session is required for all volunteer positions. Learn more about volunteer needs here.

Register for the Training Session Here.

ArtPrize Artist Feature: Artemis Antippas

Chicken (family portrait), 2014, archival pigment print, 12 x 18 inches

Chicken (family portrait), 2014, archival pigment print, 12 x 18 inches

Artemis Antippas’ work is on view as part of UICA's ArtPrize Nine exhibition, Cultivate, a curated group show that uses food as a lens to examine cultural history, social equity, and the effects of globalization on communities.

Artemis Antippas was born in 1985 to Greek-American parents; an abstract painter mother and an art dealer father. From a very early age, Artemis became consumed with the wildness that is New Orleans, especially the French Quarter where she grew up. She graduated from American University in 2008, where she received her BA in Public Communications and Art History.

Since 2014, Artemis has exhibited her work throughout the country including Brooklyn, NY, Boulder, CO, Lake Charles, LA, and Washington, DC, as well as several exhibitions in New Orleans including the Ogden Museum of Southern Art, the Contemporary Arts Center and Prospect satellite exhibitions.

Artemis makes work that is a reflection of her intense connection to New Orleans and her various obsessions – obsession with color, glitter, fried chicken, with her grandmother, with soccer, dollar store foods, her cat, with New Orleanians' unrelenting tendencies of fête and food, with multiples, old lady things, party decorations, apparel & accessories, with carpeting, Mardi Gras, cotton candy, shopping, fur, and with all things Greek.

Artemis' practice revolves around these obsessions, personal interests and daily observations. For her, the adventure and experimentation of the working process are equally as exciting as the finished work itself. Artemis Antippas lives and works in New Orleans, LA.

Tell us a little about the work that’s on display at UICA. Have you participated in ArtPrize before? What drew you to participate this year?

This is my first time participating in ArtPrize and I am so thrilled to be a part of such a wonderful celebration of the arts! On display at UICA, I have a few separate works arranged as one installation. A big part of my art making process is exploring unusual materials – the work in this show involves chicken bones, silicone, motorized turntables, videos of me eating chicken and loads of glitter.

Glitter Bones (for New Orleans), chicken bones, fine glitter, steel nails

Glitter Bones (for New Orleans), chicken bones, fine glitter, steel nails

ArtPrize is a popular, city-wide event. What are you most excited about during this unique art-viewing experience?

I think what I’m most excited about is the opportunity to exhibit my work in Grand Rapids at UICA and to share my work with such an incredible art-loving community for the very first time.

UICA’s exhibition is centered around food. Does your work use food as a theme or lens traditionally or is this new territory for you?

Food is absolutely an influence in my work. I’m from New Orleans, so fried chicken is like a way of life down here. No matter the occasion, a fancy gala or a block party, there is always fried chicken. I’m sure it sounds strange, but I feel very connected to fried chicken and know that it will always play a major role in future works.

Who or what has been the biggest single influence on your way of thinking?

I was born and raised in the French Quarter, so I was exposed to absolutely everything as a child. I saw what it meant for people to be who they were, completely free of judgment or fear – it was a beautiful way to grow up. I am in complete of awe of this wild city and fall more and more in love with it every day. New Orleans will forever be a strong influence in everything I do.

Where else have you exhibited your work? Is there a project or exhibition that stands out in your mind as your greatest accomplishment?

I’ve shown my work around the country in various group shows (in Brooklyn, Boulder, Washington DC, etc.) as well as several incredible galleries, museums and art centers in New Orleans. Each time I get to share my work with the public it truly feels like a great accomplishment. Showing at ArtPrize is definitely a very exciting moment for me!

What new projects do you have on the horizon?

I always have a bunch of projects in the works, it can be overwhelming at times but I think I live off of the excitement of working without boundaries. And having the opportunity to actually share them with other people is just a big bonus for me. I have some really wonderful larger collaborative projects that I’m focusing on right now, too – so stay tuned!

Looking for more?

Learn more about Aremis Antippas here.

Artemis Antippas
C H C K N                    
Category: Installation
Vote Code: 66579
Current City: New Orleans, LA, US

Local Artist Feature: adeshola makinde

Photograph by  Casey McClurken

Photograph by  Casey McClurken

Give us a short bio.

My name is adeshola makinde. I’m a clothing designer and I own a streetwear clothing brand called COMPLETE VII. I’m an artist working at a dream that I hope one day, can become a reality someday.

How would you describe your work?

I would say that my clothing design is an extension of how I’m feeling at the moment and how I’m dissecting the world. My first collection was a direct reflection of the political climate at the time, so it was quite confrontational. My second collection has a hint of that, but I believe it’s a far more approachable than the last collection. I always want COMPLETE VII to be a brand that has integrity in all the things that it does while having fun.

Designed in collaboration with Ben Biondo

Designed in collaboration with Ben Biondo

Who or what has been the biggest single influence on your way of thinking?

I don’t think I can honestly pin point that to a single person or thing, but what I’ve been inspired by a lot lately are all the amazing books I’ve been reading by some very important black people; the people they never taught us about in grade school. Everyone from James Baldwin to Huey P. Newton to Angela Davis and many more. Their courage and willingness to “fight the good fight” has been an inspiration for me to keep doing what I’m doing.

Do you have a piece of work which stands out in your mind as something you are exceptionally proud of or that is particularly important to you?

Photo by adeshola makinde. Designed in collaboration with Ben Biondo

Photo by adeshola makinde. Designed in collaboration with Ben Biondo

What immediately comes to mind is the ad campaign for my first collection. It was a photograph of two young black boys wearing my favorite piece from the first collection, the PLEASE DON’T SHOOT ME DOWN! hoodie. I’m proud of this ad campaign because even though it didn’t cause me to sell as many of these items as I would have liked, it at least pushed a few people to recognize or begin a conversation about something that is an problem in our society. The trend of unarmed black people dying at the hands of those called to protect and serve should be confronted proactively. I want to thank my friend for allowing his kids to be apart of my “crazy” idea and for his kids to be so excited about it – your support, but more importantly your constant pursuit to show empathy humbles me.

Photo by adeshola makinde. Designed in collaboration with Ben Biondo

Photo by adeshola makinde. Designed in collaboration with Ben Biondo

What new projects do you have on the horizon?

I’m actually on the verge of unveiling my second collection in an INSTALLATION © sort of event. The concept for the INSTALLATION © is to basically give customers the opportunity to touch & feel the new collection before they pre-order anything they liked online. Whatever they buy will then be delivered to them (no longer than 3 weeks) once it has been made right here in town. It is also allowing us to tell the story of the new collection a bit more comprehensively with the install that we plan to do in the space ArtCommons space at UICA. The event will happen August 18 & 19 from 12PM-7PM both days. There will be an opening reception on the first night, August 18 from 5PM-7PM. I really would love for anybody and everybody to come to this public event – I really believe in this next collection and I think the community will enjoy it too.

What do you want others outside of the creative workforce to understand about careers within the arts?

When people walk into museums or even just look at a t-shirt design and say “I could’ve done that!” might be one of my biggest pet peeves. Sometimes art can look so simple and easy, but to me, it’s all about the action, of doing that sets people apart. Some people say they’re going to do something, but never do it and then you have people that actually do it. Chasing any dream is no easy task, but the first step is going after it and that's not something that everyone who’s had a dream can say that they’ve done. That’s what I want people outside of the creative workforce to understand about careers within the arts – that it isn’t as easy as it may seem.

How can communities, specifically Grand Rapids, better support the creative workforce?

Photo by adeshola makinde. Designed in collaboration with Ben Biondo

Photo by adeshola makinde. Designed in collaboration with Ben Biondo

One thing that I’ve been talking about lately with others is that there are all of the extremely creative people that have left Grand Rapids. A lot of times those people left because they weren’t supported in the ways that I believe Grand Rapids could have supported them - to help facilitate their ideas. Often times it seems like it’s the same ole' thing that succeeds in Grand Rapids and I think as a city, we can to do a better job at supporting what is new and/or what we may not understand. I love breweries as much as the next person, but I don’t think another one is what we need/ what will allow for us to be a progressive city. We need more diversity in the cultural spaces in our city. From types of restaurants, to retail shops, to bars, to music venues (and the list goes on). This is all to say that I’ve always been one to believe that Grand Rapids could be an amazing creative hub, one that is viewed as being somewhere interesting. In my eyes, we have the talent, Grand Rapids just needs to find a way to help creatives facilitate their ideas!

What are you passionate about besides your work?

Designed in collaboration with Ben Biondo

Designed in collaboration with Ben Biondo

I’m passionate about music, movies and tv shows. I get chills whenever I hear music that I love and/or touches my soul. I love watching movies and tv shows that tell unique stories that you can relate to your everyday life or find inspiration from, but I also just love when they are just shot super well. All of these things inspire me to keep creating and hopefully one day I can inspire someone with my work the way these things have all inspired me.

What’s the best piece of advice you have heard and repeat to others?

Someone who I collaborate with a lot is Ben Biondo – he’s who I send all my sketches and/or references to and he translates my ideas into something tangible via Adobe Illustrator. That’s a program I’m not experienced with (but he is) and he helps me bring my ideas to life. This is advice that’s not necessarily something that I’ve heard, but more so something that I’ve observed. All of the people (i.e. Frank Ocean) that inspire me that I follow in pop culture have one thing in common and that’s their ability to delegate. Know your strengths and weaknesses and delegate tasks to those who can support those weaknesses. The people who inspire me seem to know how to collaborate very well. That’s advice I’d tell anyone – find people who you work well with (those who are good at the things you aren’t) and work, work, work...

Looking for more?

Follow adeshola makinde at @completevii or visit  COMPLETE-VII.COM.

Local Artist Feature: Brian Hedrick

Tell us about you.

I was born and raised in Grand Rapids, MI and I’ve lived near downtown for about seven years. I studied graphic design at Kendall College of Art and Design, and while in school I got really involved with the local music community. When I wasn’t doing schoolwork, I was designing gig posters and album art for local musicians. In 2013 I started working with the folks over at Lamp Light Music Festival and have been doing design work for the festival for the last four years. Shortly after I graduated from KCAD, I got an internship at Downtown Grand Rapids Inc., and was brought on full time as their in-house graphic designer, and I’ve been working there for the last three years. 

What originally made you want to become a graphic designer?

Photography was my first creative outlet. I was really drawn to the challenge of creating compositions in the viewfinder – the restricted space forced me to look at my surroundings in a new way, and I loved that. In high school I started to learn the ropes of the Adobe programs, and I found that I could create similar compositions within a “restricted space” on a screen. I spent a lot of time on the computer. My skills in the programs sharpened over the years, but the work I was producing was a direct result of presets, and consequently felt confined and shallow. It wasn’t until KCAD where my perception of graphic design really blossomed and I started to grasp the capacity of design beyond the computer. I fell in love with typography, language and theory. 

How would you describe your approach to design?

A mentor introduced me to a way of thinking that has really guided me over the years. It’s this idea of zooming in and zooming out while you work - shifting between the intricacies of the design process and the bigger picture. At the end of the day, designers have to make important decisions like, what typeface should I use? What should my margin size be? What colors should I use? This is the zoom in. But what’s on the other side of that? How do I escape the damnation of shuffling through my font book?  How am I justifying those small decisions, are they purely instinctual? How can I create work that is less contrived, and more revealing? 

The world is rich with embedded contexts, and I try to view those contexts as a guide for decision-making. They are tools just as the Adobe programs are tools. How can I utilize historical, cultural, or economical contexts in my daily design practice to help construct a more meaningful message? How can I offer a fresh perspective on topics that already exist, or bend light that is already shining, so to speak? This is the zoom out. I try to center myself between those mindsets, and shift back and forth when the time calls for it. 

Who or what has been the biggest single influence on your way of thinking?

Mundane things that stop you in your tracks and make you go “huh, weird”. I love that stuff. A handful of months ago I was out to breakfast, and as I was waiting in line I noticed a letter board that read “OPEN 7 AM – 2 PM DAILY”, and instead of using a L in DAILY they used an upside down 7, presumably because they ran out of L’s to use. It was totally one of those “huh, weird” moments. It was an organic, clever use of typography that came out of necessity and urgency. Made me think, well what if I found myself in a situation that required me to create form out of necessity or urgency, what would that look like? What if I’m working on a project down the line where the content of said project suggests similar characteristics? Could I back-pocket this process and unearth it when it’s pertinent? This just one example, but more or less I’m just really intrigued with the idea of emulating mundane, organic processes and seeing how that could inform my own design process.

What would you say is your strongest skill and how have you honed that skill over the years?

I try to stay observant of my surroundings, whether it is immediate or distant, in or outside the field of design. I don’t know if it’s my strongest skill, but it is definitely a skill I’m trying to hone in more. I want to have my finger on the pulse. 

What do you want others outside of the creative workforce to understand about careers within the arts?

Designers aren’t decorators. A lot of times we get hired for gigs under that pretense, and we’re easily dismissed as the folks who can embellish a Word document and make it look pretty. It undermines the profession; we aren’t just makers. Part of the job requirement of a designer is to help educate the client and/or the general public on what good design is capable of doing, and sometimes there isn’t a deliverable for that. Listen to designer’s ideas. Collaborate with them. 

What are you passionate about besides your work?

The DIY music scene in Grand Rapids. I love going to house shows. The folks putting on DIY shows are doing it with little to no budget, limited resources, and a lot of heart. They do what they do for the sake of community, and I think that is a beautiful thing. I’ve been fortunate enough to work with them, and I feel blessed that my interests get to mix. 

What’s the best piece of advice you have heard and repeat to others?

Take breaks. Go for walks. It’s really easy to get caught up in your own shit. Working with blinders on can be crippling - you miss out on all the potential creative catalysts around you. Ideas come at the weirdest times, while you’re making eggs, brushing your teeth, riding the bus, etc. Temporarily walking away from your work can open a lot of doors. 

Looking for more?

Find more work by Brian Hedrick here: (@pendingcontent).

Regional Artist Feature: Ellen Rutt

UICA is in the process of curating a number of public murals throughout the city. Our Exit Space Project is a dynamic experiment investigating the ideas, images and conversation being conveyed by contemporary artists working within the public space.

Our most recent Exit Space Project mural was completed in June of 2017 by Detroit artist, Ellen Rutt with support from Downtown Grand Rapids Inc. We sat down with the artist to learn more about what motivates her.
Photography by Justine Montigny.

Ellen Rutt is a multi-disciplinary artist and designer living and working in Detroit, MI. Rutt makes bold, mixed-media paintings and murals and is interested in the visual and tactile nature of our existence - how we as as humans interact with the shapes, colors, textures that surround us everyday.  Rutt's work is a call for inclusivity and a celebration of diversity and uses playful forms as a vehicle for authenticity while using humor to help soften communication around cultural and political belief systems.

How would you describe your work?

Visually intense, layered, shape orgies.

How did you start your career as a muralist?

When I moved to Detroit, I was surrounded by all sorts of graffiti, murals and incredible hand-painted signage. It’s pretty contagious so I just started telling everyone that I wanted to paint walls. And eventually someone let me. It looked like total shit but then I practiced, and eventually got much better. I still have a long way to go though.

Who or what has been the biggest single influence on your way of thinking?

Several years ago, I was really struggling with anxiety. I serendipitously stumbled upon an opportunity to participate in a year long “spiritual quest” of sorts, that culminated in spending 10 days camping alone in the woods off the grid and sober. It wasn’t what I expected, I didn’t have crazy visions or anything, but I got to explore the question, “Who are you when there is no one else around?” When the space is empty, you have complete freedom to do or be whatever or whoever you want. You can scream and cry and laugh and sing and yell shit and crawl on the ground like a slug or run as fast as you can, the options for “how to be” are actually limitless. Remembering that the world goes both infinitely inward, and infinitely outward really changed the way I wanted to live my life, and by extension, my art practice.

Do you have a piece of work that stands out in your mind as something you are exceptionally proud of or that is particularly important to you?