Walking in a Window Wonderland: Winners Announced in Annual Holiday Window Decorating Competition
Despite being unusually devoid of snow for this time of year, downtown Grand Rapids is flush with festive holiday cheer thanks in large part to the creativity of students from Kendall College of Art and Design of Ferris State University (KCAD).
The third annual Window Wonderland competition, organized by Downtown Grand Rapids Inc. (DGRI), gave 31 KCAD students the opportunity to partner with 17 local businesses and transform their storefront windows into works of holiday-themed art. The students worked in teams to create unique installations that speak to the business’ identity and branding.
“Window Wonderland is both about providing opportunities for local businesses to partner with other organizations, and for students to engage with their community,” says DGRI Stakeholder Engagement Specialist Annamarie Buller. “It’s also a great way to really get the city into the holiday spirit; having creative, beautiful window displays really draws people downtown and gets them engaged in all of the wonderful things that downtown has to offer.”
The window installations were unveiled on November 6, and the public then had 20 days to vote for their favorite designs. The four winning teams were announced last night at a ceremony in Rosa Parks Circle.
KCAD President Leslie Bellavance (far right) in Rosa Parks Circle with the student winners of the 2015 Window Wonderland competition
The duo of Jenny Kang and Dawon Kim, both students in the Interior Design program, took first place and a $1,000 prize with their window installation at Barking Mitten, a dog boutique catering to downtown dog owners. Kang and Kim made excellent use of symmetry in creating their winning design, which featured ornamented pine trees and cotton snow on the floor of the store’s entry way and a layered array of different-colored silhouettes of dogs hanging from the ceiling.
(above): Winning design by Dawon Kim and Jenny Kang; (below): Kim (left), Kang (middle), and KCAD Director of Student Engagement Nicole DeKraker
Second place and a $750 prize were awarded to the team of Victoria Hays and Molly Kalep, both students in the Interior Design program, for their design at City Flats Hotel. The pair created origami-like window decals of animal caricatures and pine trees, as well as large vinyl text reading ‘Happy Holidays’ accented by musical notes.
(above and below): Second place design by Victoria Hays and Molly Kalep, located at City Flats Hotel
The team of Graphic Design students Cassandra Heth and Bethany Nelson won third place and a $500 prize for their work at Groskopf's Fine Luggage and Gifts. Heth and Nelson chose to highlight some of Groskopf's unique gift selections in their display, which featured a red sleigh, cotton ball snow, wrapped presents suspended from the ceiling, and lyrics from Louis Armstrong’s “What a Wonderful World.”
(above and below): Third place design by Cassandra Heth and Bethany Nelson, located at Goskopf's
The Honorable Mention award and a $250 prize went to a team of four students from the Master of Architecture program: Alicia Miller, Courtney Vallier, Courtney Wierzbicki, and Geena Pickering. The students created a beautiful paper rendering of the Grand Rapids cityscape in the front windows of San Chez Tapas Bistro, complete with paper snowflakes, snowmen, and silhouettes of winter revelers.
Honorable Mention design by Alicia Miller, Courtney Vallier, Courtney Wierzbicki, and Geena Pickering, located at San Chez Tapas Bistro
“I was really impressed with the students’ ability to synthesize what businesses were looking for in their custom designs,” says Buller. “They really put a lot of work into this competition.”
For the KCAD students, the opportunity to work with local businesses provides not only a sense of community engagement, but valuable experience working with and designing for the needs, identity, and brand standards of real world clients as well.
“Any time we can give our students the chance to take their talents out into the community, it helps them to realize how the value of art and design extends far beyond individual creativity,” says Nicole DeKraker, Director of Student Engagement at KCAD. “With Window Wonderland, they also get valuable experience building professional relationships, managing workflow and project deadlines, and working collaboratively with other students to realize a shared vision.”
DGRI believes that initiatives like Window Wonderland help the community with embracing winter and activating downtown during the cold season.
“I think that DGRI understands the importance of getting out in the community and building partnerships and relationships with the creative community, because creative problem solving is a big part of the city building process,” says Buller. “We want to encourage that kind of investment in creatives in our community, because we continue to see remarkable results when creative people are given a place at the table.”