happy decade free radical

This year is the 10 year anniversary of the Free Radical and there have been a flurry of conversations around the event. About how it should change, what the future holds, what it has been in the past and what it means in the present.  So this year we are working on a different format for the event.
The First night we hosted a series of shows along South Division per the norm and the second night we hosted an evening of conversation at the UICA featuring speakers.

The Schedule included:

  • 6-7pm Where we’ve been: A History of Free Radical and show spaces on South Division Moderator: Annamarie Buller With artists: Hugo Claudin, Tom Duimstra, Erwin Erkfitz & Mark Rumsey
  • 7:20 pm The Cultural Context: A brief history of “nontraditional” shows and spaces. Speaker Anna Campbell
  • 8-9 pm The Challenges of Exhibiting Artwork in Grand Rapids Moderator: Jenn Schaub With artists: Brett Colley, Deb Rockman , Paul Wittenbraker & Amy Wilson
  • 9-10 pm Reflect and Interpret: 10 minute criticism/critiques about shows/exhibits with commentary by: Tamara Fox, Andrew Klein, Will Juntunen, Maureen Nollette and Mandy Cano

I have to say- the turnout for the second night was AMAZING. Over 100 people joined us for 4 hours of dialogue.

What we thought would happen:

  • People would show up for the portions of the conversation they were the most interested in but not stay
  • Visitors would mill about and congregate for side conversations
  • The critical discourse would be rejected

What happened:

  • 100 visitors showed up for 4 hours of conversations. they got there early and many stayed FOR THE ENTIRE EVENT.
  • People requested MORE critique


I can’t tell if this is a value shift in the culture of Grand Rapids or if there is something in the water but I will take it. I’m looking forward to seeing if this level of engagement in discourse is continued…..I guess we have made some changes over the last decade.

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