If you've been conscious at all for the past 2 months, (which we can't say we have entirely) then you should know that here in Grand Rapids we have this little event that happens every year called ArtPrize which brings somewhere around 400K+ people into Downtown Grand Rapids over the course of 3 weeks to view 1,500+ pieces of art. Every year it gets a little bigger and it is a fantastic event for the city. For about a month the city buzzes in almost every tangible way. People are conversing, experimenting, expressing themselves and just experiencing the city in ways we don't see the other 48 weeks of the year. It really taps into the heart of where the city is headed as far as engaging it's citizens and letting their voices be heard.
Every year Site:Lab takes an old building within the city that possesses an immense amount of history and character, and sometimes hasn't been open to the public for upwards of 40 years, and repurposes it into a living art gallery with a curated roster of talented artists from around the world. They are intentional about taking into account the history and architecture of the building to work side-by-side with the building to create a seamless experience unlike anything I've ever experienced in the art world. This year they were handed the keys to The Morton House at 72 Monroe Center right in the heart of Downtown Grand Rapids and within spitting distance of the GRAM. With its giant ballrooms, spiral staircases, massive bank vaults and alleged hauntings; The Morton seemed like a dream come true for Site:Lab.
This year we had an amazing opportunity given to us by an organization we've been working with closely for years and look up to dearly to do a pop-up shop within their venue. We were walked through the building by the one and only Paul Amenta (hardest working man in Grand Rapids by leaps and bounds) and we discovered an unused entryway that used to be a small entrance to a basement Bavarian restaurant called "Der Kelder" that had been closed for about 40 years. With no plans to use it for anything other than an emergency exit, Paul offered it to us as a blank slate for a pop up shop for Citizenshirt. We were ecstatic and immediately set to work planning and sourcing all of our gear, buying wood, talking to people about the feasibility of LED lit plexiglass floors, building a sculpture completely off-the-cuff as we went and imbibing in more than a few beverages (always build responsibly). After a few weeks we stood back and got our first glimpse of Citizenshop. It was mesmerizing. As a small apparel brand trying to make the tiniest bit of noise to get our name out there, this was a tidal wave. We hung 10 and rode that wave for the 3 weeks of ArtPrize. It was a blur of thousands of confused people asking us "Is this ArtPrize", countless conversations with other people in the community ranging from everything from business to art to food to music to culture to how crazy the weather constantly is, to meeting a ton of new people and getting to explain what and why Citizenshirt is.
Now that the dust has settled and we have slept it off (mostly), we wanted to say a profound THANK YOU to Site:Lab, ArtPrize, the city of Grand Rapids and every single person who has believed in us and came to visit us as we experimented walking into the retail world for a hot second. Saying it was a whirlwind is an understatement. Please keep believing in us and keep up with what we are working on at Citizenshirt.com, Instagram, Facebook, Twitter or just swing by the shop and say hi!
-The CZS crew