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University to Host 'Soft Opening' for Federal Building in Grand Rapids

Federal BuildingGRAND RAPIDS – Ferris State University’s Kendall College of Art and Design will unveil the newly renovated historic Federal Building during a “soft” opening Tuesday, May 1. The public is invited to join faculty, students and staff at the event, which will showcase the work of Kendall’s Studio Excellence Award winners, selected from the 2012 graduating class, in the first-floor galleries.

The free event begins at 4 p.m. with brief remarks from Kendall President Oliver Evans, Ferris President David Eisler and others in the Decorative Arts Corridor on the west side of the first floor. The building at 148 Ionia Avenue will be open until 7 p.m. for self-guided tours. It is the only opportunity for the public to tour the facility until this fall, when an official grand opening will be held.

The event also will serve as a tribute to Evans, who is retiring after leading the institution for nearly two decades, and will feature the annual Student Exhibition of creative work on all seven floors of Kendall’s main building across the street at 17 Fountain St. NW.

The new space for Kendall, one of the largest art and design schools in Michigan, will expand its campus into 91,000 square feet of new classroom, studio and gallery space. The building’s fourth floor will feature the Wege Center for Sustainable Design, made possible by a $1 million gift from philanthropist Peter Wege. That will enable Kendall to accommodate its growing student enrollment, which has tripled in the past 10 years, to deepen its presence in West Michigan.

Dedicated in 1911, the Historic Federal Building has throughout its history served as a courthouse, a post office and the Grand Rapids Art Museum. The building is recognized on the National Register of Historic Places.

Total cost of the project is about $28 million.  Financing was made possible through a public-private partnership drawing upon a number of city, county, state and federal resources.

The renovated Federal Building will feature new spaces dedicated to, among other programs, three-dimensional art, ceramics, art history, metal sculpture and sustainable design, in addition to common areas for students and expanded office space for faculty. It also will house substantial space for exhibitions, lectures and other community gatherings.

The university also has invested $675,000 to upgrade the first, sixth and seventh floors of the main Kendall College of Art and Design building on Fountain. 

As part of Ferris, Kendall offers programs that prepare the college’s graduates for professional lives as artists and designers.  Kendall’s undergraduate programs include art education, art history, collaborative design, digital media, drawing, drawing with printmaking focus, fashion studies, furniture design, graphic design, illustration, industrial design, interior design, medical illustration, metals/jewelry, painting, photography, and sculpture and functional art. Kendall also offers the MFA in Fine Arts and the MBA with a Concentration in Design and Innovation Management.  Kendall annually provides more than 2,000 children and adults opportunity to pursue courses in art and design through a richly varied continuing studies program.