Alumna leads Grand Rapids window activation project

Woman standing by a mural
Jasmine Bruce, '18, stands by a mural that is part of the Windows GR project.
Image Credit: Kendra Stanely-Mills

A Grand Valley alumna led a group of local artists to create meaningful murals on the many boarded-up businesses in downtown Grand Rapids.

Some businesses were left with broken windows and other damage following a night of unrest after the death of George Floyd while in police custody in Minneapolis.

Jasmine Bruce, '18, is one of the organizers of the Windows GR activation project. The project was developed just three days after the damage was done.

Bruce said the goal of the project is more than beautification, it's a powerful way "to amplify Black voices in the community."

"Art can be that vehicle for conversation. A lot of the mural's messages are about peace and unity in the community," Bruce said.

More than 140 window boards have been painted, with more than 200 artists signing up to participate in the project. So far, 96 Black artists have contributed.

"For Black artists like me, it's about telling our stories and showing that we are still here. It’s fate that we would come together around art," Bruce said, noting the strong arts culture in the community. "We have a lot of beautiful and creative voices that live right here, and being able to bring people together for their voices to be heard is so powerful."

Bruce said plans are in the works for an event featuring all of the murals, where artists may have an opportunity to sell their pieces. She and the other leaders of the project have partnered with organizations such as Lions and Rabbits, a gallery and education center, and Downtown Grand Rapids Inc. in order to curate artists, fund the project and secure approval with businesses.

"Downtown Grand Rapids Inc. embraced this public art project to support business recovery efforts and amplify the voices of local artists of color," said Andy Guy, chief outcomes officer at Downtown Grand Rapids Inc. "These murals carry powerful messages and they provide our community an opportunity to listen and learn about the issues from different perspectives while they're downtown." 

Lead organizers for Windows GR include alumna Asia Horne,'13, Adrian Butler, Kendall Redmon, Guillermo Sotelo, Erik Lauchié and Leandro Lara.

For more information about the project or inquiries into participating, contact the organizers at windowsgr20@gmail.com or visit the group's Facebook page.