Epic Street Artists are Creating Diverse Grand Rapids Murals
feature image is Dreamchaser by Kevin Wolfrom
Grand Rapids has literally been painting the town with fun things to do, and that includes amazing murals to brighten our landscape.
If you want to know how vibrant a city is, look at its art. Murals serve a purpose deeper than being something cool to look at.
For years, murals have been a tool used to breathe life into urban areas. Public art fosters community engagement and jump starts conversations – and we’re pretty sure you’ll want to join in.
Large scale murals adorning buildings, retaining walls, and even the pavement around West Michigan give us a whole host of free art and great photo ops.
While the city has several murals from Art Prizes past, local organizations like the now defunct Urban Institute for Contemporary Art (UICA), and West Michigan Center for Arts and Technology (WMCAT), with the support of Downtown Grand Rapids, Inc. (DGRI), have regularly brought in mural artists that challenge us to think about our surroundings in new ways.
We scoured the streets of West Michigan – from the city down to the big lake – to compile a map with 100+ murals for you to uncover the next time you need an art fix.
In this Article
Find Murals by Neighborhood
Inspired by the true story of the Black People's Free Store in Grand Rapids, this mural features 3 of the 5 activists who started this radical community support system in the 60's.
This massive mural is found at the corner of Newberry and Ottawa in the city's NW side.
For his ArtPrize 2010 entry Zimmerman walked the streets of Grand Rapids, looking for citizens that represented the fabric of Grand Rapids. And he included them in this mural!
You Are Here has become an iconic part of Grand Rapids, and is hard to miss on the north side of the Kendall College of Art and Design building. (Corner of Pearl and Division.)
The mural, entered in Art Prize 10 under UICA Outside, continues up the stairwell that leads back up to street level.
“Nuestra Historia, Nuestra Voz” (Our History, Our Voice) celebrates and honors the Hispanic identity with nods to Puerto Rico, El Salvador, Mexico, the Dominican Republic, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Honduras, and Cuba.
This vibrant rainbow adds some color to an otherwise drab cement parking garage.
JEST’s distinctive style can also be found inside the Grand Rapids Children’s Museum: the Gerber Foundation Book Nook mural that features many popular characters from nursery stories , was spearheaded by Joel as well!
One of the largest ones can be found behind the Brick Road Pizza Co. building. Created in 2008, this mural was part of the final result of Grand Valley State University students, Carrie Schoeborn’s and Dennis Nagelkirk’s, participation in the Student Summer Scholar program.
Working with the African Community Center, which at the time was located at this address, they met with many of the client the center served– refugee immigrants from African nations, to offer support groups, ESL classes, computer training, and other services.
The artists wanted to show the transition of emigrating through the mural. While this particular non-profit is no longer servicing the community, the discussion and awareness that this piece brings, adds value to the neighborhood.
On the northern wall you can find what remains of the EECO X AVE4ART Mural. Painted for Art Prize 5 as a collaboration of local artist Erwin Erkfitz and the ArtWorks program, this piece encompassed both this wall as well at the split level embankments.
This multi-paneled piece, originally created for Art Prize 7 has many hidden Grand Rapids references.
If you view it from across the street, big picture thinkers can admire the larger than life lightsaber that makes fun use of the available natural light.
Hailing from Poland, she has also left her mark on our sister city Bielsko-Biała, further linking the two cities.
The massive mural was completed for Art Prize 10 and covers the entirety of the Plaza Apartment tower’s parking garage.
When you get closer, you can spy the eye behind the artist’s intention. She explains, “At the center of the mural, the eye acts as a symbol of perception, the way we interpret and translate daily events into narratives that inform our identity.
The eye, sourced from a vintage magazine, is painted using a halftone, an old printing technique brought into an entirely new context through a dramatic shift in scale.”
This multifaceted space described itself as an art-driven, event space. Their gallery isn’t limited to inside the building. Along their eastern and northern walls, as well as all along the surrounding cement walls you find dozens of tableaus by various artists.
Map of Grand Rapids Murals
Wanna know where to find these vibrant art installations on your next outing?
This map will guide you to all the insta-worthy backdrops your heart desires.
Murals Scavenger Hunt
PS – Here’s a bonus (printable, click on the image) scavenger hunt!