Sponsor/Developer: National Endowment for the Arts, Michigan Council for the Arts, private contributions.
Project Location: De Vos Hall, Grand Rapids, MI.
Project Description: Located in the foyer of the Keeler Theater, this complex work involves the comprehensive treatment of the entire lobby area. Lively painted surfaces featuring entertainment and historical themes are punctuated by a painting of a river, 'The Grand', which incorporates the theater's central stairway as part of its river design. The three-story Keeler Grand Foyer consists of a main theater marquee facing a central stairway which leads to two balcony levels. Columns surround and support the stairway and roof. The artist connected the disparate architectural elements of the foyer into a single unified artwork. Upon entering the theater, the marquee draws attention to the theater entrance -- but also to the sign above the entrance spelling out in cursive letters, 'The Grand'. The artist-designed sign also gracefully incorporates two existing clocks. Across a red-orange carpet from the entrance marquee, a stairway ascends several stories to the balcony levels and metaphorically represents a river flowing from above. The walls are shades of blue with organic imagery. The architectural elements of the staircase are painted to portray the river meandering across the upper balcony wall before cascading down the stairs, pausing at the first level landing in an eddy before completing its journey to the floor level. At each balcony level, Art Deco-style murals portray a dance shoe, a silk top hat and a piano keyboard. Small framed pictures containing (often humorous) vignettes relating to the history of Grand Rapids can be seen on the balcony walls. 'The Grand' river is a central part of Grand Rapid's geological and commercial history.
Project History: Mary Ann Keeler, an arts activist living in Grand Rapids, initiated this project. She is a relative of the family after which the theater lobby called the 'Keeler Grand Foyer' was named. The foyer is also the site of Alexis Smith's work. For a period of 13 years Mary Ann Keeler has crusaded for the visual arts in Grand Rapids. She directed her energies to the foyer of the De Vos Hall, which consisted of a rather plain central staircase which led to the balcony seating of the theater. Her intention was to enrich the foyer with visual themes relating to the theatrical use of the space, and to have an artwork which would be meaningful to the citizens of Grand Rapids. Richard Koshalek, Director of the Los Angeles Museum of Contemporary Art, suggested Alexis Smith, an artist who uses fantasy and complex symbolism in her work. The City of Grand Rapids and the Kendall School of Design assisted in implementing Smith's design.