West Michigan Center for Arts and Technology names WOW! award winners


The West Michigan Center for Arts + Technology helps high school students unlock their artistic creativity and adults develop the skills to gain employment in the health care industry. Photo via fb.com

Working within the Grand Rapids community has made the West Michigan Center for Arts and Technology step back and say, “Wow!”

The Grand Rapids based education nonprofit honored the labors of University Prep, SiTE:LAB and WMCAT Board of Directors President Matt Van Vranken with WOW! Awards at its second annual iBall, Thursday night at the Goei Center.

The WOW! Awards recognize the three hallmark values of WMCAT’s work: innovation, imagination and inspiration.

For innovation, WMCAT awarded UPrep, the first school launched under the Center for Innovation through Grand Rapids Public Schools.

WMCAT lauded UPrep, led Principal Daniel Williams, for “innovation and changing the traditional school model to bring the best from public and private sectors together.”

“(This award) is great for the whole community,” Williams said. “So many people worked so hard for five to six years to make this thing happen. Next year, we move into our new site on Division (Avenue), we’re having our first graduation. . . . It’s great to see it all come together.”

For imagination, WMCAT honored SiTE:LAB, particularly its founders Paul Amenta and Tom Clinton, for its “temporary site specific art projects aimed at facilitating dynamic collaborations between the art, education, business and cultural communities of Grand Rapids.”

ArtPrize has named SiTE as “The Best Venue” for the past two years, recognition that the WMCAT team believes shows a positive influence in the local visual arts community.

WMCAT and SiTE have partnered before on two separate installations at Blandford Nature Center in Grand Rapids

For inspiration, WMCAT recognized Van Vranken, who also serves as the executive vice president of Spectrum Health Delivery System.

Van Vranken, who helped found WMCAT in 2005, has “continually advocated for and supported growth and sustainability through sound planning and collaboration.”

“It’s been an absolute great pleasure for me,” he said. “It’s really been a great ride. We have a great staff and the impact we make on kids and adults . . . you can’t imagine the difference between the way people leave this organization from the way they came in.”

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