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Bridge Work 2024: A Pioneering Showcase at Cultivate Highlights Emerging Artistic Voices

Four of five artists in exhibition. Left to Right - Ellie Garry, Julia Bradfish, Margaret Griffin, and Hannah Stevenson. Photo by Maylyn Southavilai

On April 12, Cultivate in Grand Rapids, Michigan, opened its exhibition Bridge Work 2024, an annual exhibition that emphasizes the innovative strides of recent art school graduates. The gallery welcomed a diverse group of 70 visitors on opening night, setting the stage for a season focused on fresh, provocative perspectives. The exhibition, on display until May 31, features the work of Margaret Griffin, Elizabeth Sheeler, Julia Bradfish, Hannah Stevenson, and Ellie Garry.

Visitor with Julia Bradfish's work. Photo by Maylyn Southavilai.

Artist Highlights

Margaret Griffin explores the poignant overlap between human anatomical forms and industrial materials, showcasing sculptures that speak to the environmental and personal impacts of industrialization. Her background at the Milwaukee Institute of Art & Design enriches her approach, blending classical sculptural techniques with modern industrial themes.

Elizabeth Sheeler offers immersive environments that delve into complex themes such as identity, control, and empathy. Her interdisciplinary approach combines elements from printmaking, sculpture, and 4D art, crafted during her time at the University of Wisconsin - Madison, challenging viewers to reflect deeply on their interactions with the surrounding world.

Julia Bradfish uses painting and drawing to navigate the nuances of personal identity and the artist’s journey. Her work is characterized by a delicate introspection, informed by her education at the University of Wisconsin - Milwaukee, which resonates with both emerging artists and seasoned critics.

Hannah Stevenson blends traditional craft with contemporary discourse, her textiles and paintings exploring themes of femininity, empowerment, and social commentary, reflective of her studies at Kendall College of Art and Design.

Ellie Garry captures abstract forms that suggest the complexities of nature and human emotion, translating personal experiences into visual narratives that prompt viewers to reconsider their perceptions of trauma, beauty, and resilience.

A visitor and artist Ellie Garry viewing Julia Bradfish's work. Photo by Maylyn Southavilai.

Program Impact and History

Bridge Work, initiated by Jason S. Yi and Leah Kolb, is more than an exhibition; it is a comprehensive mentorship and professional development program designed to bridge the gap between academia and the professional art world. Since its inception, the program has been instrumental in supporting artists transitioning from educational institutions to establishing a foothold in the competitive art scene. The program includes intensive mentorship, professional networking, and critical exposure, facilitated by partnerships with local colleges and galleries across the Midwest.

Supported by the Michigan Arts & Culture Council and Lowell Arts, Bridge Work equips artists with the tools necessary for success—ranging from professional documentation of their work to personal critiques and mentorship meetings with established artists and curators. This approach not only enhances their professional skills but also increases their visibility in the art community.

The impact of Bridge Work is evident in the caliber of art presented and the professional trajectories of its alumni. The program fosters a vibrant community of artists and curators, ensuring that the Midwest remains a significant hub for contemporary art innovation. This is an annual program, and Cultivate is seeking its 2025 Bridge Work artist for the program now.

As Bridge Work 2024 continues to attract viewers and stimulate conversations around the works of these talented artists, it reaffirms Cultivate’s role as a critical platform for launching the careers of new artists and enriching the cultural landscape of Grand Rapids and beyond.


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