Following the Grand River north out of downtown, the historic North Quarter of Grand Rapids is hot on the heels of the city’s West Side as a center of investment. Public art is a key element of the revitalization, with many of the murals featured below painted in the last few years.
This self-guided mural tour traverses nearly seven miles from downtown Grand Rapids and back. There are sidewalks the entire way if you’re up for a nice hike but you may want to take a vehicle and park somewhere along the way. You can also take the Rapid (Bus #11), which covers most of the route. There are many restaurants along the way so you can take a break to refuel.
Keep your eyes open for other street art as you go – there are new pieces appearing all the time – and check out our City Center, Heartside, Southtown, Uptown and West Side mural tours for more to see.
Make a Grand Exit
Follow Division Ave. north of downtown, past Pearl St., Lyon St. and Crescent St. You’ll drive under a highway overpass and encounter a traffic light. Just beyond this light is a series of murals painted on concrete retaining walls lining the east side of the street. Featuring the work of artists Nick Nortier, Eliza Fernand, Ellen Rutt, Patrick Ethen and others, they were painted as part of the “Exit Space Project” sponsored by the now-defunct Urban Institute of Contemporary Arts.
Continue north on Division until you reach the Leonard St. intersection (about one mile). At that point, Division St. becomes Plainfield Ave. This tour stays on Plainfield through the Creston Heights and Cheshire Village neighborhoods, spotlighting murals on the east side of the street on the way out and the west side on the way back.
East Side of Plainfield Ave.
About one-tenth mile past the Leonard St. intersection is a distinctive brick building that is currently occupied by Ivy Rehab Physical Therapy. The first thing you’ll notice as you approach it is a massive vertical rainbow painted on the south side of the building. This mural, featured prominently in the Experience Grand Rapids video spot, “No Ordinary Town,” is a legacy of the site’s previous occupant: Lions & Rabbits Center for the Arts.
Lions & Rabbits is a non-profit organization aimed at creating prosperous opportunities for artists to achieve and sustain fulfilling careers. They helped facilitate many of the murals featured in this tour and they continue to activate public spaces with art – on walls, electrical boxes, storm drains and elsewhere – throughout the city.
Though Lions & Rabbits has moved its HQ to another location, they left behind a number of murals in their parking lot. Be sure to look around the concrete wall separating this building from the Muffler Man next door to view an untitled mural by Josh Bradley, a young artist who strives to express the strength, resilience of the Black community through his work.
“Bradley Salon Mural"
1312 Plainfield Ave. NE
Two doors north of Ivy Rehab is The Bradley Salon, a business renting space to independent hair stylists. The south wall of the salon features a mural by Dayna Walton, who says the piece was inspired by “the feeling of interconnectedness and peace with the natural world – the feeling of boundaries breaking down when we recognize ourselves in nature and as part of something bigger.” Walton’s work can also be seen on our City Center Mural Tour and the RAD Women Electrical Box Tour.
Continue north on Division about two-tenths of a mile to Spencer St.
1428 Plainfield Ave. NE
This mural can be seen in the public parking lot off Spencer St., behind a row of buildings – including Stonesthrow furniture store – fronting Plainfield. Inspired by the colors and patterns they found outfitting the furniture sold within the showroom, artists Rebecca Rapin, Alex Barger, Haylie Bos and Kacie Forbes—collectively known as Evas’ve – created color blocks and patterns on the building’s exterior.
Get back on Plainfield and head 1.7 miles north to Fat Boy Burgers.
“I Love You”
2458 Plainfield Ave. NE
Local Afro Caribbean artist Erick Picardo painted this mural on a wall facing the parking lot of a breakfast-and-burger joint that has been delighting hungry patrons for more than 70 years. Picardo has painted many indoor and outdoor murals around West Michigan, including pieces included in our Heartside, Southtown and Uptown mural tours.
West Side of Plainfield Ave.
Now, turn around and head back south on Plainfield. There are more murals to see on this side of the street. Your first stop is about three-tenths of a mile south of Fat Boy Burgers.
“Fruits & Veggies”
2225 Plainfield Ave. NE
Grand Rapids-based illustrator and graphic designer Lisa Pavia created this series of vinyl murals for the front exterior of Kingma’s Market, a locally owned store that has served Grand Rapids for 80 years. Fresh produce is one of Kingma’s specialties and this mural gives a nod to that.
2225 Plainfield Ave NE
Right next door to Kingma’s is Sparrows Coffee. Grand Rapids-based artist Emily Luyk painted a “ground mural” for this local coffee shop as part of the Lions & Rabbits After Dark initiative. There’s a hint of it on the concrete planter in front of the building and it spills on to the patio floor beyond it.
Continue south on Plainfield about two-tenths of a mile.
“River North Public House Mural”
2115 Plainfield Ave. NE
This neighborhood bar and restaurant sports a mural of fanciful flowers by Michigan-based artist Mark Rumsey, who has exhibited his work all around the world. The mural can be seen on the north side of the building.
Follow Plainfield south about six-tenths of a mile to Frosty Boy, on the corner of Plainfield and Ann St.
“Put a Bird on It”
1757 Plainfield Ave. NE
Artist Diane Nguyen painted a dynamic exploration of color on the rear wall of this popular ice cream shop. It evokes joy, much like Frosty Boy’s selection of tasty treats.
“The Light Fills in the Shadows There”
1747 Plainfield Ave. NE
Next door to Frosty Boy is Lucy’s, a popular breakfast and brunch restaurant that recently expanded into dinner and bar service. The north side of Lucy’s is adorned with this mural by local artist and printmaker Mathew Farrell. The abstract design, like much of the artist’s work, plays with space and the interactions between forms.
Continue south on Plainfield about three-tenths of a mile to Sweet St.
1601 Plainfield NE
Grand Rapids-based artist Stephanie Ellis painted both sides of a planter in front of Café Mamo, an “American restaurant inspired by Grandma’s Garden” on the northwest corner of the intersection. Ellis’ work is inspired by the “natural world, storytelling and her Midwest upbringing.”
It’s about 500 feet south to your next stop, Renee Austin Wedding.
“Renee Austin Wedding Mural”
1555 Plainfield Ave. NE
Artist Paige Rochefort painted a lovely floral mural on the south side of the building. It’s a popular selfie spot, especially for brides-to-be who have been shopping inside for their dream dress.
Directly across the street from the Renee Austin mural are two more murals of note.
1553 Plainfield Ave. NE
The Division Avenue Arts Collective (DAAC), a volunteer-run all-ages music venue, art gallery and DIY project incubator, is located at the rear of the building opposite Renee Austin. Grand Rapids illustrator and printmaker Nick Nortier wrapped the exterior of this non-profit with a mural featuring a massive owl. Look for the three cassette tapes in the mural, signifying that this is the third (and hopefully) final location for the community non-profit.
1553 Plainfield Ave. NE
The rest of this building is occupied by the Gaia House Café, the revival of a storied local vegetarian and vegan restaurant. Visual artist, teacher and occupational therapist Kelly Allen painted the botanical images while “The Gaia Goddess” figure at the east end of the mural was created by the late artist Ken Wells. Both pieces reflect the in-tune-with-nature spirit of the restaurant.
Head south another two-tenths of a mile to Creston Market, at the corner of Plainfield and Caledonia St.
“Migration is Beautiful”
1403 Plainfield Ave. NE
Nick Nortier, who painted the owl mural at DAAC, depicted two non-birds of prey in this mural facing Caledonia St. The piece draws allusions to people who migrate to other countries in search of a better life. Nortier’s work can also be seen on our West Side and City Center mural tours.
Now head south two-tenths of a mile to Elysian Salon, which boasts two large-scale murals on the south and north sides of its building.
1309 Plainfield Ave. NE
“Central District Cyclery Mural”
1309 Plainfield Ave. NE
Local illustrator Elliot Chaltry painted this mural on the north side of the building when it was occupied by a former tenant. Chaltry is known for his use of vibrant colors and intricate designs, and both are evident in this piece.
Travel one block south the corner of Plainfield and Page St.
“Metro PCS Mural”
1251 Plainfield Ave. NE
Teen artists Roxy Jacobs, Sammy Baker and Nia Mays painted the mural on the north side of this building when they were students at West Michigan Center for Arts & Technology (WMCAT), under the tutelage of instructor Oscar Neri. Like many of the murals on this tour, it brings a soothing glimpse of nature into the urban environment.
“J&K Party Store Mural”
1237 Plainfield Ave. NE
Just a few doors south is another mural by Elliot Chaltry. Located on the north side of J&K Party Store, it was an ArtPrize 2021 entry. That was a big year for Chaltry – his design for downtown GR’s City Built Brewing Co. Prague Underground pilsner won USA Today’s Best Beer Label competition in 2021.
“Graydon’s Crossing Mural”
1223 Plainfield Ave. NE
Directly across the parking lot from J&K is another mural. Inspired by the logo for the European Premier Soccer League, Grand Rapids-based artist/graphic designer Kyle DeGroff painted a gargantuan lion on the exterior of this old-world gastropub, where soccer fans gather to watch matches on TV. DeGroff has also created murals for a number of other area businesses, including the West Side’s Condado Tacos and Long Road Distillers.
Continue south just past the Leonard St. intersection and pull into the parking lot of Discount Home Improvement.
“Discount Home Improvement Mural”
1157 Plainfield Ave. NE
Self-taught artist Nikki Trim painted a mural wrapping around a low retaining wall on the far end of the parking lot. Trim says her works seeks to enhance the beauty of the natural world “with atypical colors that elevate the images to a dream-like state.” Follow the full length of the mural to appreciate the full effect.
“616 Realty Mural”
1171 Plainfield Ave. NE
When you reach the far end of Nikki Trim’s mural, look up. Two sides of the white brick 616 Realty Building feature the very first mural painted by Grand Rapids-based artist Dania Grevengoed. She has gone on to create other botanical-inspired pieces in and around West Michigan businesses, including Rockford Brewing Company and Switchback Gear Exchange.
And so concludes our North Quarter Mural Tour. You can follow Division Ave. south back to the heart of downtown.