UICA Merges with Kendall College of Art and Design
by Tori Pelz and Tamara Fox
In a dramatic move to ensure its survival, UICA merges with Kendall College of Art and Design, becoming a wholly owned subsidiary of the KCAD and Ferris State University. This news was just announced this morning at a press conference held at the UICA. According to a press release issued Thursday, without some major changes, the UICA was on a path to closing its doors this fall.
Impeded by a 3.8 million dollar deficit, in part due to their recent move to the new building, their choices were limited. The best option, according to university and board presidents, is a merger with KCAD and Ferris State University.
In the press release, President David Rosen stated, “Our plan was simple: protect UICA from as many of their expenses as possible and help them gain momentum,” said Rosen. “If UICA generates new funds, we will make sure they help UICA grow into the vibrant center it aspires to be.” This new partnership was made possible by key contributions of a small group of long-term, dedicated donors, announced long-time donor herself, Kate Wolters. Talk of this merger has been in the works for the past five or six months. UICA staff learned the news just yesterday, at the same time as the press.
Structurally, the UICA will continue to operate independently. Although, its current board is now dissolved and will be governed by Ferris’ Board of Directors. There will be an advisory board made up of key donors and will incorporate art professionals. The staff at UICA will now have operations support from KCAD staff. Otherwise, there was no mention of other organizational crossovers.
In terms of financial commitments, this merger means that KCAD will take on UICA’S deficit. Specifically, the college will take on about a third of the debt, according to Garry Granger, Ferris State Board of Directors Chair. It is unclear whether this is a direct cash bail out or equivalent in-kind Operational services. Kendall College President, Dr. David Rosen indicated his belief that in the next three to five years, the UICA would be financially sustainable. Any profits that the UICA generates will go back into the funding the UICA. The UICA will still be encouraged to run a tight ship and balance their own budget.
To generate income, the UICA will be focusing on new memberships, program sponsorship, and increasing attendance at art events. One of the ways the community has been most engaged at the UICA is through film. Going forward, there will be greater emphasis placed on film programming, expanding their traditionally independent offers to include more “classics and other community friendly offerings.” “Films are our most competitive product,” said UICA Director, Miranda Krajniak in the press release.
Obviously, there are still some conversations to be had in terms of how this will play out for both institutions. For starters, what does this mean for the future of contemporary art in West Michigan? For now, it means it will continue to have a home at the UICA.