SiTE:LAB moves into Morton House for ArtPrize

Construction at SiTE:LAB at Morton House. (Sept. 4, 2014)


GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — SiTE:LAB, a perennial favorite of jurors in the world’s largest art competition, promises to be again among ArtPrize’s most unique venues as it moves into Morton House.

The historic building on Monroe Center at Ionia Avenue NW is currently under renovation that is exposing areas sealed off from the public for decades. But for a brief period during ArtPrize, Rockford Construction will suspend renovation on the 1922 building and open it up to art lovers.

SiTE:LAB co-founder Paul Amenta described the chance to use Morton House as a one-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

“I was familiar with the exterior of the building, but I had never been inside,” Amenta said. “And the first tour, just walking up the main entrance into the lobby, it was pretty obvious that this was a stunning place.”

Amenta said the building’s character will inform the work of the artists who will display their pieces there.

And the building is art all on its own.

“I think it will be real exciting for the audience to get to come in and actually engage these spaces,” Amenta said.

The vault of the former Old Kent Bank, for example, will for the first time welcome visitors.

“I don’t think too many people got to go inside this thing when it was operational,” Amenta said.

With its intricate mechanisms, chrome hinges and massive doors, you would think an artist would work harder than Al Capone to get into the vault.

“I assumed that we would have lots of competition to get into this space and we did not, which was a surprise to me,” Amenta said. “What I think happened is that this thing has such a presence, I think that artists were a little concerned with trying to compete with the thing itself, which is a pretty stunning object.”

Upstairs in what used to be the Grand Ballroom, work was already underway Thursday for Julie Schenkelberg’s Symptomatic Constant. It’s a piece that — like everything in Morton House — will only exist only for the 19 days of ArtPrize.

ArtPrize 2014 runs from Sept. 24 to Oct. 12.



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