Grand Rapids is a wonderful little city that has an amazing arts scene and growing food and microbrew presence that is constantly changing. Since moving to West Michigan over 20 years ago, we would go downtown for the hockey game at the Van Andel Arena, a performance at the Civic Theatre or concert at DeVos Hall, take our kids to experience history at the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Library, or explore the Public Museum and Planetarium. We love the gardens and butterflies at Frederik Meijer Gardens and have seen some wonderful concerts there in a great intimate setting.
But the city really opened up for us and came to life 8 years ago when ArtPrize began. For two and a half weeks every fall, the city becomes one big scavenger hunt. Art is everywhere and we discovered so much of the city we didn’t know. On our trek for art we found back alleyways covered with murals, hidden gardens off the beaten path, saw amazing architecture from the turn-of-the-century buildings we otherwise wouldn’t have gone in, and frequented coffee shops, restaurants, and retails businesses we otherwise would have missed. When my kids were younger they couldn’t wait to see what art they could find next, what awaited us around the corner. My husband and I take an entire day to explore and savor - our date with the city. We come back again at night with friends, because the city lights at night are another story.
Some of our unexpected favorites included Woosah - a great little indie business where we met the owner who carves all of her printed designs from wood. Just down the street is the Harris Building, which is a fantastic meeting and event space that has been restored just enough but not too much that the character and architecture can still be seen. A surprising place to eat lunch is at the CityFlats Hotel - they make a fantastic chicken salad sandwich and have a great patio view of Monroe Center St.
Art has become a catalyst for conversation, awareness, and economic growth. A unique and wonderful combination that makes me admire this city even more!