The Grand Rapids Art Museum is holding its 6th annual children’s art contest sponsored by The Wege Foundation and inspired by the late environmental artist Mark Heckman. Partnering with his writer friend Mark Newman, Heckman created colorful drawings to illustrate their book for children titled Sooper Yooper. Peter M. Wege, who died in 2014, and Heckman collaborated on several projects, including the art work Heckman did for Wege’s book ECONOMICOLOGY.
The picture here is from Sooper Yooper and the man reading the newspaper is none other than Peter Wege himself.
GRAM encourages teachers and parents to submit their students’ and children’s art work any time the museum is open through April 30.
Winners in each age class will be honored in an awards ceremony Saturday, May 14, 2016, from noon to 1 p.m. in GRAM’s Cook auditorium. For more details, please click on the link below.
April 27, 2015, architect Ed Mazria gave the 19th annual Wege Lecture urging Grand Rapids to join Architecture 2030, the program he founded in 2006 to cut carbon emissions from buildings in half by 2030. Noting that 50% of the energy in the U.S. is consumed by buildings and 75% of all greenhouse gases come from urban centers, Mazria’s environmental mission targets cities.
The day after Mazria’s Wege Lecture, the city of Grand Rapids began the process that would qualify it to be named a 2030 city by the end of the year. Mayor George Heartwell and his fellow city leaders were not daunted by the fact that the first 11 cities took a lot longer than eight months to sign up the necessary private and public building owners. He credited The Wege Foundation for its generous grant to the West Michigan chapter of the United States Green Building Council that helped grease the skids to make the city’s December goal happen.
In a press conference announcing that Grand Rapids had qualified as the 12th 2030 city in the country, Mayor Heartwell made it clear the “spirit of Peter Wege” was happily present. The collaborative action by local private and public building owners committing 10 million square feet of buildings to 2030 exemplified the way Peter liked to see things get done.
The significance of holding the press conference at the Grand Rapids Art Museum reinforced Mayor Heartwell’s comments. Peter Wege was the moving force behind this first U.S.G.B.A. museum in the world. And while the GRAM board offered to rename it for Wege, the response was vintage Peter. “This museum belongs to the people of Grand Rapids and that is how the name will stay.”
Now GRAM sits in the heart of the 12th city in the United States to fight global climate change by signing on to 2030.
Edward Burtynsky is an environmental warrior whose artistic weapon is a camera. For over 30 years, the Canadian artist has turned aerial photography—via planes, helicopters, and drones—into a graphic history of what we Homo sapiens are doing to our Earth home. His airborne cameras have photographed quarries, oil drillers, and mines, among other things, documenting man’s physical destruction of our most vital natural resource.
From now until April 26, two floors of the Grand Rapids Art Museum are filled with sixty of Burtynsky’s large-scale photographs in a powerfully designed exhibit. As one viewer put it, “I went through the entire exhibit and was fascinated, stunned, and impressed with the solemn message his artwork showed us.”
The title of Burtynsky’s show at the GRAM is Water, and his message is gripping. “Water,” he writes, “is the reason we can say its name.” The late Peter M. Wege, founder of The Wege Foundation, the Presenting Sponsor of the exhibit, said the same thing in his book ECONOMICOLOGY. “We can live without a lot of things,” Wege wrote. “Water isn’t one of them.”
Some of Burtynsky’s aerial photographs, such as a Geothermal Power Station in Mexico and Dryland Farming in Spain, have an abstract beauty despite the artist’s deadly serious message. The epiphany that led to this GRAM exhibit happened seven eight years ago when a photojournalist friend told Burtynsky about an incident that happened in an Australian bar. After his friend had paid for his beer and was leaving, the bartender ran after him and said he had to finish his glass of water before he could go.
“Suddenly, Burtynsky writes, “water took on a new meaning for me. I realized water, unlike oil, is not optional. Without it we perish.”
That revelation led to Burtynsky’s spending five years circling the globe in the sky focusing his mission and his lens on recording mankind’s misuse of water. West Michigan viewers surrounded by the five Great Lakes holding 21% of the world’s fresh water might shudder at the photographs of the Colorado River Delta ironically named as it’s been a sand lot since the River was diverted over 40 years ago. And then there’s Owens Lake, a desert since its water was siphoned off for Los Angeles in 1913.
Because of man’s technical ability to control the world’s water, Edward Burtynsky writes, “We are reshaping the Earth in ways …capable of engineering our own demise.” The artist hopes this GRAM exhibit will make viewers “think more long-term about the consequences of what we are doing.” And if we don’t pay attention, we will continue to take the water that sustains us for granted. “Until it’s gone,” Burtynsky somberly concludes.
How many people know that studying fine art not only enhances artistic skills, but also raises reading scores? Some 1500 third-graders from the Grand Rapids Public Schools do because it worked for them last year! And this year almost 2,000 8-9 year olds are making new visual and verbal connections in the Grand Rapids’ Art Museum’s Tour Program.
In a synergistic partnership, GRAM, Kendall School of Design, and the GRPS are into their second year of a highly organized curriculum helping 3rd graders improve both their visual-arts and reading skills. It all begins with the third-grade teachers and the art teachers in each of GRPS’s 26 grade schools.
This year GRAM chose six pieces of art depicting animals or birds for the children to learn about weeks before their Tour date. One favorite is the Stalking Panther bronze by American sculptor Alexander Proctor given to GRAM by Peter M. Wege.
When the GRPS bus unloads the 60 third-graders at GRAM, the docents – who have spent long hours learning the Tour curriculum – take over. “Why did the artist select this pose?” the docent asks and hands go up. “Why would an animal behave like this?” More hands.
After more questions and answers, the students use their new GRAM pencils to write down what they see happening in the sculpture. This becomes the middle of a story. Next, two students partner to create a beginning and an end for their collaborated tale about the panther. Thus the sculpture is teaching the third-graders about story and descriptive writing.
When the bell rings signaling time for students to move on, another docent is waiting to talk about comparison and contrast using two horse paintings by American artists Mathias Alten and George Hartmann. Here students write down what they see as similarities and differences in the paintings.
The Tour Program is triggering these third-graders’ young brains to actively make new synapses connecting what they see, hear, and write. Indeed, this literacy-visual connection is to powerful that teachers can actually project reading strengths just by looking at a young child’s drawings.
**Docent Judy Tyner (adove photo) demonstrates the muscular extension the sculptor of Stalking Panther captured during a recent Tour Program at GRAM.
(This video shows Barb Wisse, GRPS literacy coach, presenting Carlos Ramos from Cesar E. Chavez School with one of two Tour awards last May. Carlos reads the story he wrote explaining his drawing of Croc-Zilla, a combination of a crocodile and Godzilla)
Dana Friis-Hansen left his job as Executive Director of the Austin Museum of Art this summer to take over as CEO of the Grand Rapids Art Museum. In an interesting confluence of art museums, GRAM’s new chief executive will be both exhibitor and presenter during this fall’s ArtPrize. Among the 32 ArtPrize entries to be housed at GRAM will be one Friis-Hansen helped create for the Austin Museum called “The Mona Lisa Project” by photographer Rino Pizzzi.
The GRAM board and the community had the chance to welcome the 50-year-old Friis-Hansen at an open reception July 15. The new director told his audience that the people he’d met here during interviews and the exciting visions they have for GRAM’s future helped him decide to leave Austin for Grand Rapids. And the museum itself, the nation’s first LEED Gold Certified museum opened in 2007, completed the irresistible offer.
For the Massachsett’s native, GRAM’s flexible, open spaces, its environmentally progressive design, and its downtown location make it an ideal community art museum. Friis-Hansen has already taken advantage of the expansive entrance by showing “upside down” films on the outdoor porch ceiling. The first night it didn’t take long for people to spot the movies and come lie down to watch them.
That’s typical of Dana Friis-Hansen’s creative approach to making GRAM a family gathering place. In Austin he created The Family Lab bringing in experts from biologists to chefs who helped him expand the boundaries of what an “art museum” is.
After one year in operation as the world’s first art museum to win a Gold LEED medal from the United States Green Building Council, the Grand Rapids Art Museum has doubled its attendance. The new GRAM welcomed twice as many people to its galleries in one year as the number of those who visited GRAM in its last year in the former federal building.
Over those twelve months, the 70,000 viewers to the old GRAM have grown to 140,000 people who came through the doors of the new “green” art museum. Even more significant for the future is that 1,000 new people have signed on to become members of GRAM. Another sign of success in its first year is that 185 tour groups, including visitors from Germany, visited the art museum this year.
GRAM earned national recognition when Newsweek Magazine named the 125,000 square-feet new art museum one of the “Six Most Important Buildings of 2007.” Its location in the heart of Grand Rapids overlooking the Rosa Parks ice rink—the city’s own Rockefeller Plaza—has made GRAM a popular destination. After walking through the galleries, visitors browse the gift shop and watch the skaters over lunch in the cafeteria.
Peter Wege, President of The Wege Foundation, donated the lead gift that initiated the campaign to give his hometown a world-class new building to house its only art museum. His one stipulation: “I want it to be the first LEED-certified museum in the world.” The U.S. Green Building Council’s historic announcement that GRAM had earned the first Gold rating ever awarded to a museum honored Peter’s request—and fulfilled his dream.
Elite athletes aren’t the only ones striving for the gold. Any new construction that is enrolled in the U. S. Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) program dreams of earning a Gold ranking, second only to platinum. Now that the U.S. G.B.C. has finished its formal review of all the environmental documentation from the construction of the Grand Rapids Art Museum, they have tallied the points and made the announcement.
The U.S. Green Building Council has awarded a Gold ranking to the new GRAM officially making it the greenest museum on the planet! The $75 million, 125-000 square-foot GRAM incorporated energy-saving technologies in everything from the heating system to the windows to the plumbing and the lights. They even installed bike racks to encourage visitors to leave their cars at home.
This historic undertaking began in 2000 when Peter Wege, head of The Wege Foundation, offered $20 million to erect a new art museum for Grand Rapids. He had only one stipulation. The museum had to be built according to LEED’s green construction protocols. The size and type of building—housing works of art that require complicated air and light conditions—made the job even more challenging. It also made winning the Gold certification more rewarding.
Because of his $20 million-plus donation, the largest single gift ever to an art project in Michigan, the Grand Rapids Art Museum’s board wanted to rename it the Wege Art Museum. Peter Wege’s reply was typical of his low-profile style. While thanking the board for their kind offer, his refusal was clear.
“This art museum doesn’t belong to the Wege family, it belongs to the people of Grand Rapids. That’s how the name is going to stay.”
Wege Foundation Actively Fostering LEED-Certified Projects
(Grand Rapids Business Journal’s front-page headline August 20, 2007)
With a color photograph of the new Grand Rapids Art Museum covering most of the front page, the Business Journal article by Pete Daly begins:
GRAND RAPIDS – There is a wave of green construction sweeping through West Michigan, and riding the crest of that wave is the new Grand Rapids Art Museum. The $60 million art museum is scheduled to open on Oct. 5. When it does, may be the first completely new art museum to open with a silver Leadership in energy and Environmental Design rating from the U.S. Green Building Council. It may even achieve a gold LEED rating eventually.
Celeste Adams, director of GRAM, explained in the article that it takes six months after construction for the LEED rating to come through. The news story explains that the highest LEED ratings are platinum, gold, and silver in that order. The next level is “LEED Certified” rating.
While LEED’s final word on GRAM is not yet known, the article makes it clear that one historical first is for sure. Daly writes: It will be the first and only art museum in the world in which the entire facility is Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certified.
Kulapat Yantrasast, from the Los Angeles firm Workshop Hakomori Yantrasast, was the architect for the new GRAM. He’s pictured here with Celeste Adams the night of the gala ball that opened GRAM in October 2007. They are standing in the entrance to the gallery named for the Wege Family.
In the article, Yantrasast notes that one green feature is the “capture and use of rainwater, funneled from the roof to a storage tank.” The recapture is to prevent the problem of water runoffs from parking lots and rooftops that cause major flooding problems as cities have so with little open ground to absorb excess water. Yantrasast noted that Grand Rapids has periodic sewage overflows into the Grand River when rainstorm water floods the treatment system.
The windowed GRAM uses natural light to save energy, but Yantrasast points out that this is a challenge in an art museum because ultra-violet rays can damage the artwork. For that reason, the roof skylights and some of the glass walls have layers of glass louvers that filter the sun light.
Celeste Adams expects that a quarter of a million people will visit the new 125,000 square-foot GRAM the first year.