By Kayla Sosa | Photography by Joey Krezminski and Brianna Massey
Grand Rapids is packed to the gills with amazing art, and what better way to see than to take a walk! The map below will take you from the center of the city the West Side and back again as you marvel at murals, see stunning statues and appreciate how artists work their creations into the city’s natural landscape.
Rosa Parks Circle by Maya Lin
135 Monroe Center St NW
Not many people know that the beloved community spot in the center of the city is actually a functioning art piece. Rosa Parks Circle was designed by artist Maya Lin, who centered the focus of the piece on water and named it “Ecliptic.” Lin is also known for designing the Vietnam Memorial in Washington, DC. The focal point of the circle is the ice rink, and the three stages of water that are represented: solid, liquid and vapor. The other liquids are represented in a small pond and a misty vapor pond. The grass mounds are shaped to depict the Grand River and underneath the ice rink’s surface are 166 fiber-optic lights that represent the constellation of the sky in Grand Rapids on January 1, 2000.
La Grande Vitesse by Alexander Calder
525 Ottawa Ave NW
This iconic sculpture was installed in 1969 on a large plaza surrounding City Hall and the Kent County Building. The steel sculpture is 43 feet tall, 54 feet long, 30 feet wide and weighs 42 tons. It was also the first public artwork funded by the Art in Public Places program of the National Endowment of the Arts. Calder made the sculpture his signature color, red, and named it “La Grand Vitesse,” meaning “The Great Swiftness,”
representing the river flowing through the heart of the city.
Steel Water by Cyril Lixenberg
299 Louis St NW
This flowing steel sculpture by the Grand River was created by Dutch artist Lixenberg. A gift to the city by the Michigan Dental Foundation, the sculpture commemorates Grand Rapids as being the first in the world to add fluoride to its community water supply. This was also Lixenberg’s major public sculpture in West Michigan.
Statue of Nishnabe Gemaw by Tom Hills
Located in Ah-Nab-Awen Park is a statue of a former Native American leader of the local tribe in Grand Rapids, the Anishinaabek. The bronze man is standing on a boulder with his right hand raised in a gesture of peace and in his left hand rests a peace pipe. He is wearing traditional leggings and his hair is braided with feathers in the back.
Fish Ladder by Joseph Kinnebrew
606 Front Ave NW
What could’ve been a normal fish ladder, turned into a piece of art when artist Joseph Kinnebrew took the reins. The piece is a walkthrough sculpture, where visitors are surrounded by the “white sound of the river and the world of the fish.” To see the salmon jumping two flights of steps, visit the fish ladder at 606 Front Avenue NW.
Imagine That by Tracy Van Duinen
11 Sheldon Ave NE
On one of the exterior walls of the Grand Rapids Children’s Museum, is a mosaic mural by artist Van Duinen. The glittering piece of art was left after it won second prize in ArtPrize 2009.
Nessie on the Grand by Thomas Birks, David Valdisseri, Joachim Jensen and Richard App
1300 Fulton W
This sculpture was created for ArtPrize 2009 and, named “Nessie”, is a striking model of the Loch Ness Monster measuring 20-foot high and100-foot long. It was originally installed in the Grand River but was then moved to the John Ball Zoo pond later that year.
Metaphorest by Tracy Van Duinen
Fulton and Sheldon
Located on the south side of Fulton Street, east of Sheldon Avenue, is another eclectic mural by Van Duinen. The West Michigan Center for Arts & Technology was also involved in helping put pieces on this mural, which was intended to be a metaphor for the building power of the arts and local youth.
Grand Rapids Ballet Mural by Louise ‘Ouizi’ Chen
341 Ellsworth Ave SW
This mural is yet another ArtPrize entry that became a permanent fixture in our city. The artist was commissioned by the UICA as apart of their Exit Space Project to create it, as well as submitted to ArtPrize 2017. The large-scale floral design is visible from the US 131 and Wealthy Street. The GR Ballet was excited to have a piece of art represent the creativity that happens inside the building, and also provide an accessible piece of art to anyone just passing by.