by Bri Kilroy | photography by Terry Johnston
The Grand Rapids Art Museum (GRAM) reprises its role as one of the most visited venues during ArtPrize Nine, but before the 19-day party that is ArtPrize (September 20-October 8) begins, GRAM starts the festivities September 15 with an event as aberrant as history’s most intriguing art pieces. GRAM After Dark brings the silent dance party phenomenon to its Cook Auditorium and, thanks to wireless headphones, individuals can tour the gallery spaces without missing a beat.
“We try to look for something different,” GRAM’s Membership Manager, Juliana Nahas-Viilo, said. In charge of coordinating the quiet occasion, Nahas-Viilo was inspired by the silent event trend that was taking place in iconic locations throughout the nation and found it would be a perfect complement to GRAM’s annual ArtPrize Nine Preview Week party.
“I plan events I’d want to go to,” Nahas-Viilo continued, excited that the event appeals to a dynamic audience.
The inaugural GRAM After Dark silent dance party filled to capacity last year and had last-minute ticket-buyers in a wait line extending outside GRAM’s entrance doors. Thrilled at the level of interest, Nahas-Viilo amplified her preparation for the quantity of attendees by “over-ordering” 450 wireless headphones for this year’s event. Even with the surplus of headphones, it’s wise to order your tickets in advance to guarantee a place at the party. Advance tickets are just $12 general admission and can be purchased via the link at artmuseumgr.org.
As club goers enter, each are given a pair of special headphones equipped with a side button that allows the listener to shift between three different channels as frequently as they’d like. DJs Adrian Butler (AB), Monica Parker and Complete VII manipulate the music selection on their channel, spinning their best tunes as they compete with one another for your listening ears.
In the way a curator chooses the pieces that are displayed in a gallery, Nahas-Viilo puts a lot of consideration into the disc jockeys she chooses for this event. She aims to provide DJs that are different from each other to give every music-lover something they’ll love while also making the competition between the DJs fun as they measure their popularity by the color of the headphones, indicating which channel people are listening to at the moment.
“It’s fun because you may see a lot of people listening to red and think ‘I want to know what they’re listening to,’ so you switch your station,” Nahas-Viilo said.
The energy flowing through a quiet dance party is infectious and even the shyest on the dance floor have a hard time not getting lost in their musical world. If you manage to pull off your headphones for a few soundless seconds, observing the crowd is just as fascinating as the concept of a silent dance club; people are swaying, bouncing and singing to nothing. Nahas-Viilo remembers the amusement of removing her headphones and listening to individuals attempt to talk to each other over the music, yelling back and forth to their friends in excitement.
When you need a break from busting moves, take a walk through the first two floors of the art museum and visit the alluring galleries along with GRAM’s ArtPrize Nine collection. The ability to wear wireless headphones throughout the exhibits adds a hot soundtrack and provokes new interpretations to the pieces.
GRAM After Dark invites you to explore the art in a way astray from the regular museum experience. Ticket sales are restricted to ages 21+ due to an onsite cash bar. Get your tickets in advance at artmuseumgr.org or risk the wait and buy them at the door.
Get ready, Grand Rapids, it’s gonna get quiet up in here!
What: GRAM After Dark
Where: Grand Rapids Art Museum, 101 Monroe Center St. NW, Grand Rapids
When: September 15, 9 p.m.-midnight
Tickets: $12 in advance, $15 at the door, free for GRAM members. Reserve your tickets today here.