USA Today has hailed Grand Rapids as one of the 10 best cities in America where you can see amazing art. There’s an amazing artist behind every piece of art that graces our city – like Arturo Morales Romero, who has painted a number of dazzling murals around town.

Arturo was born in a town called Tepetixtla in the Mexican state of Guerrero on the country’s Pacific coast. He came to the U.S. with his mother and three sisters in 1989, settling in Visalia, California. He worked alongside his mother picking grapes, olives, oranges, peaches, plums and tangerines while attending elementary, middle and high school.

Arturo started painting at the age of five and took two years of art lessons at the College of the Sequoias in Visalia before moving to North Carolina, where he studied automotive custom fabrication, custom paint and auto body repair at Forsyth Technical Community College. He moved his family to Grand Rapids in 2014 for his job, and quickly began making his artistic mark around town.

Much of Arturo’s work showcases Hispanic history and culture, and he uses bright colors to symbolize unity and life. These elements are prominent in the murals showcased below, which the artist and Experience Grand Rapids Marketing & Social Media Manager Rachel Greiner explored for an Instagram story.  

You can follow their steps and see these gorgeous murals in person:

Aztlan Mural by Arturo Morales Romero

Arturo's Aztlan mural can be found outside of MeXo, and depicts a timeline representing Central American cultures over the years.

Photo by Nick Irwin for Experience GR. Artwork: Aztlan by Arturo Morales Romero.

1. Aztlan

Start your tour at MeXo, a downtown Grand Rapids restaurant and tequila/mezcal bar specializing in the classic pre-Hispanic food of Mexico. Arturo painted this 15-ft. x 92-ft. mural on an exterior wall of the restaurant for ArtPrize 2021. The title, “Aztlan,” means “people from the town of dreams” and the mural is a timeline representing Central American cultures from the Mayans and Aztecs to the present day.

Arturo’s work is also featured inside the restaurant, so go on in and feast your eyes (and your stomach).

Miss Maurilia Ortiz Blakely Mural by Arturo Morales Romero.

Just behind San Chez Bistro is Arturo's massive mural honoring community leader Maurilia Ortiz Blakeley.

Photo by Nick Irwin for Experience GR. Artwork: Miss Maurilia Ortiz Blakely by Arturo Morales Romero.

2. Maurilia Ortiz Blakely Way

An alley beside downtown’s San Chez Bistro, just two-tenths of a mile due east of MeXo, has been transformed by Arturo’s 50-ft. mural depicting local leader Maurilia “Molly” Ortiz Blakely. Her many accomplishments include creating the city’s Hispanic Institute and helping organize the city’s first Mexican Festival in 1970.

Maurilio’s visage rises above Arturo’s 2-D interpretation of “La Grande Vitesse,” the Alexander Calder sculpture that has come to symbolize the artistic spirit of Grand Rapids.

Pochis Sweet Designs -  Las Rosas Mural by Arturo Morales Romero

Visit Pochis Colombian Café to admire Arturo's Las Rosas mural and for delicious arepas, empanadas, and more!

Photo by Nick Irwin for Experience GR. Artwork: Las Rosas by Arturo Morales Romero.

3. Las Rosas

Around the corner from San Chez, on Ionia Avenue, is Pochis, the city’s first Colombian café and restaurant, which opened in January 2023. Arturo painted a cascade of roses on walls inside the café, symbolizing the beauty of Colombian culture. The roses also evoke Pochis owner Paolo Carson’s second business, Pochis Sweet Designs, which offers personalized gift baskets of flowers and chocolate-covered strawberries.

While you’re admiring Arturo’s creation, treat yourself to some authentic Colombian food and coffee.

Chinese, Hispanic and Syrian Immigrants Mural by Arturo Morales Romero.

Find the Chinese, Hispanic, and Syrian Immigrants Mural by Arturo Morales Romero at the corner of Division and Goodrich.

Photo by Nick Irwin for Experience GR. Artwork: Chinese, Hispanic and Syrian Immigrants by Arturo Morales Romero.

4. Chinese, Hispanic and Syrian Immigrants

A half-mile walk or free DASH bus ride will take you to the next stop on our Arturo tour, the corner of Division Avenue and Goodrich Street. The exterior wall on the southwest corner of the street (333 Division Avenue S) tells a visual tale of these three immigrant groups from the 18th century through the present day. (Did you know poinsettias are indigenous to Mexico?)

With this mural, Arturo wanted to show that we make a stronger community together, no matter where we came from.

Grand Rapids Mural artist Arturo Morales Romero work at Samaria J's Salon Suite

The Pursuit of Equality, Diversity, and Dignity by Arturo Morales Romero.

Photo by Nick Irwin for Experience GR. Artwork: The Pursuit of Equality, Diversity, and Dignity by Arturo Morales Romero.

5. The Pursuit of Equality, Diversity, and Dignity

Head west on Wealthy Street and then south on Cesar E. Chavez Avenue to reach this next stop a little over a half mile away. The exterior walls of this business, Samaria J's Salon, are covered in murals that are part of The Diatribe's 49507 Project to redefine public art and transform the community. One side of the salon features work by Arturo, while the other features art by fellow artist Rryuhn Dotson. Both murals depict scenes of Black life and history.

32 Mexican States Mural by Arturo Morales Romero

Arturo shows off his mural located in Supermercado Mexico.

Photo by Nick Irwin for Experience GR. Artwork: 32 Mexican States by Arturo Morales Romero

6. 32 Mexican States

You’ll have to get in your car or take the Rapid bus – the Silver line is the quickest route – to get to Supermercado Mexico, a grocery store and bakery stocked with a wide variety of Latin American products. Arturo’s mural depicting cultural aspects of all 32 states of Mexico runs through much of the store’s interior.

The artist hopes that shoppers who came here from our south-of-the-border neighbor will find a piece of home in his images.

That’s the end of this tour, but it’s not the last of Arturo’s work around Grand Rapids. You can also see one of his pieces in our Southtown Mural Tour and you can keep track of his artistic pursuits on Instagram (@artsmurals).

 

For more self-guided art tours of Grand Rapids, check out our Center City, West SideHeartside, Uptown and North Quarter murals as well as our Painted Ticket Booths, RAD Women Electrical Boxes and Community Legends sculptures.