Public art has long been a vital element of Grand Rapids, from well before the installation of an Alexander Calder sculpture that came to symbolize the city’s creative spirit to well beyond the advent of ArtPrize, the global art competition that fills public spaces with hundreds of artworks each year.
Launched in 2009, ArtPrize helped foster a renewed enthusiasm for large-scale art pieces like murals. There are more than 100 murals throughout the city, many originally created for ArtPrize. However, most of the murals in Heartside – a downtown neighborhood just south of the city center – were commissioned by local organizations seeking to beautify public spaces, honor notable residents and spark conversations about pressing issues.
Take the self-guided walking tour below to see some of Heartside’s most significant murals. It’s not a comprehensive list – more murals are appearing all the time – but it’s a great introduction to the neighborhood’s funky art vibe.
Can’t get enough of murals? Check out our City Center, North Quarter, Southtown, Uptown and West Side mural tours, as well as the Rad Women A-Z Initiative, which spans 26 mechanical boxes in the downtown area.
Fuel Up for the Journey
Start your tour at the intersection of Fulton Street and Ionia Avenue. Depending on the time of day, you might want to fuel up for your mural tour with a meal at Grand Rapids Brewing Company (southwest corner) or Buffalo Wild Wings (southeast corner). Starting early? Social Misfits (home of waffles, coffee and craft cocktails) is on the northeast corner.
Now you’re ready for an inspiring artistic journey!
Walk one block south on Ionia to the Weston St. intersection.
“Currents to Unknown”
26 Ionia Ave. SW
World-renowned Polish street artist Natalia Rak was commissioned to create this colossal mural in 2019. The fantastical depiction of a young woman riding a swan through a river with lily pads is consistent with Rak’s typical approach of using brightly colored paint to create multistory scenes invoking mystery and metaphor. The mural is on the south wall of the Richmond Stamp Works building, identifiable by the vintage neon sign above the front door.
Continue south on Ionia one-half block to a small parking lot on the east side of the street.
“Heartside Historic Mural”
44 Ionia Ave.
This mural from Grand Rapids artist Kevin Wolfrom (aka Gump) depicts six powerful and courageous women who dared to stand up for equal rights in West Michigan: women’s suffrage activists Mary Roberts Tate and Clara Comstock Russell, author Constance Rourke, local and national YWCA president Helen Jackson Claytor, civil rights activist Phyllis Scott and Native American advocate. It’s on the south wall of the 44 Ionia Building.
“Stella’s Skull Pile”
44 Ionia Ave.
At the rear of the parking lot, perpendicular to the historic mural, is this creation by Grand Rapids artist, muralist, screen printer and graphic designer Erwin Erfkitz. Splayed across the back entrance of Stella’s Lounge, it blurs the line between street art graffiti and mural painting.
Continue south, passing the Oakes St. intersection, Dublin Hall and Peppino’s Pizzeria & Sports Grille to reach the Cherry St. intersection. Head east on Cherry to Commerce Ave. Walk one half block north on Commerce, past the Cherry Commerce Parking Ramp.
141 Commerce Ave. SW
The small alley just past the parking ramp is brightened by this vibrant mural from Afro Caribbean artist Erick Picardo, who settled in West Michigan after moving to the U.S. Made possible through an “Activate This Place” grant from Downtown Grand Rapids Inc., it’s one of several large-scale Picardo pieces around town.
Continue north on Commerce to the Oakes St. intersection. There is a small parking lot on the northeast corner.
“Schematic in Two Parts”
68 Commerce SW
Artist Jeff VandenBerg painted this piece on the exterior of the Pyramid Scheme music venue, which he co-founded. VandenBerg – who goes by the moniker JVB as an artist – is also responsible for much of the distinctive poster art the Pyramid Scheme produces to promote the indie and alternative touring bands it hosts.
Continue one half block north to the front entrance of Stella’s Lounge.
53 Commerce Ave. SW
Grand Rapids-based illustrator Anthony Carpenter created this 31-foot long piece for the patio of Stella’s Lounge. You can get a glimpse of it from the sidewalk, but the full effect is best appreciated from a patio seat (settle in and try the Stella Burger, named America’s Best Burger by GQ Magazine). “Lucifer’s Lounge” was hand-drawn, digitally colored and printed on metal panels that were assembled around the patio.
Continue north on Commerce to the Weston St. intersection. Walk one half block east on Weston.
“Ella Mary Sims Mural”
21 Weston St. SE
An advocate for women and housing justice, Dr. Ella Mary Sims helped establish a transitional women’s housing program in Heartside and served on the board of Dwelling Place, a Heartside-based provider of affordable housing and essential support services. This mural by Michigan-based artist Dustin Hunt illustrates Sims’ journey from Mississippi to Grand Rapids, and her far-reaching impact on the local community. It is on the east side of the 21 Weston building, on the north side of the street.
Continue east on Weston to the Division Ave. intersection.
“AIDS Resource Center Mural”
42 South Division Ave.
Artist and clinical psychologist Kimberly Kunze led a team from the Grand Rapids LGBTQ+ Healthcare Consortium to produce this mural commemorating the fight for AIDS-related health care and the impact the virus has had on Grand Rapids. The mural is on an exterior wall of a building that once housed the AIDS Resource Center, opened in 1998. It’s on the southeast corner of the intersection.
Head south on Division past the next intersection (Oakes St.) There is a small parking lot on the east side of the street just past Oakes.
“The Beverly Sisters”
106 South Division Ave.
Ethel Beverly Burgess was instrumental in establishing the Urban League of West Michigan. Hattie Beverly was the first African American teacher at Grand Rapids Public Schools. Grand Rapids artist Jamari Taylor painted this artistic tribute to the groundbreaking sisters on an outside wall facing the parking lot.
“Heartside Historic Mural”
106 South Division Ave.
Painted on a wall adjacent to The Beverly Sisters mural, this artwork honors the legacy of athletes who competed on Grand Rapids Negro League baseball teams in the 1940s-50s. Artists George Eberhardt and Donnie Destro created this piece as part of Dwelling Place’s Heartside Historic Mural Project.
Continue south on Division to the next intersection, Cherry St.
“Grand Rapids Furniture City”
2 Cherry St.
Acclaimed American muralist Richard Haas, whose work has been featured in such museums as the Metropolitan Museum of Art, painted this three-dimensional trompe l’oeil mural in Pekich Park. It is a stylized depiction of the lumber industry that spurred Grand Rapids development in the early 20th century. It’s on the northwest corner of the intersection.
Continue south on Division past the next intersection (Williams St.).
“Black People’s Free Store”
235 South Division Ave.
This mural by Detroit artist Ijania Cortez depicts three Grand Rapids activists – Bernard Ware, Carl Smith and Richard Martell Gilbert – who founded The Black People’s Free Store in Grand Rapids. The store was only open from 1967-68, but it was an important resource and gathering space for neighbors and activists. It’s on the south side of the renovated historic building at 235 S. Division.
Now head back north on Division to Cherry St. Turn right (east) and walk one block to Sheldon Blvd. Continue north on Sheldon Blvd. past The Vault building to another parking lot on the west side of the street.
“Union Depot Station Mural”
101 Sheldon Blvd. SE
The Union Depot was the heart of the city from the 1890s through the 1950s, serving as a railroad hub for trains traveling to and from Grand Rapids. Local artist Jasmine Bruce created this mural to honor the significance of the Depot, which was located at 61 Ionia Ave in Heartside. It’s painted on a low wall at the rear of the parking lot.
“Hearts of Heartside”
101 Sheldon Blvd. SE
Local artist E’lla Webber painted this piece in 2022 for the Heartside Historic Murals Project sponsored by Dwelling Place, a Grand Rapids non-profit organization dedicated to improving the lives of people by creating quality affordable housing. It’s on the north wall bordering the parking lot.
Continue north on Sheldon Blvd. to the next intersection (Oakes St.). The building on the corner once served as the ArtPrize Hub – it’s now Compass College of Film & Media – and there’s a fun mural on the south wall.
Head east on Oakes to LaGrave Ave. Go north on LaGrave, past the Weston St. intersection and the Grand Rapids Fire Department.
18 La Grave Ave. SE
Nashville-based artist Andee Rudloff painted this vibrant mural on the exterior walls of The Cottage Bar & Restaurant as part of ArtPrize 2016. She organized and facilitated painting sessions for community members to participate in the mural’s creation.
Congratulations, you have completed the Heartside mural tour (though you can still catch the few outlying murals listed below). If you like, you can now head a half block north to Fulton St. and pick up the Monroe Loop of the Downtown mural tour on your way back to the Fulton/Ionia intersection where your journey started.
Other Must-See Murals
These murals are located south of the downtown city center, but not technically in Heartside:
“Grand Woods Lounge Postcard”
77 Cesar E. Chavez Ave. SW
Artist Andy Contreras painted this homage to Michigan’s great outdoors on an exterior wall of the Grand Woods Lounge, a hunting lodge-themed restaurant/bar with a great patio. It’s about a seven-minute walk from the Fulton/Ionia intersection.
“The Earth Will Turn With Me Again”
206 Cesar E. Chavez Ave. SW
Walk another three minutes south on Cesar Chavez, past Oakes St. to the Cherry St. intersection. This mural is painted on the exterior wall of the Tin Can Bar on the southeast corner of the intersection. It was painted by Grand Rapids artist Maddison Chaffer in summer 2023 as part of the Downtown Grand Rapids “Activate This Place” program.
“Hopson Flats Mural”
212 Cesar E. Chavez Ave. SW
Keep going south on Cesar Chavez to next intersection, Williams St. On the northeast corner is a photorealistic mural painted by acclaimed South Korean artist Royal Dogg (aka Chris Canyang Sim). It depicts a beautiful woman in a Korean hanbok dress and was installed during Asian American Heritage month in 2022, coinciding with the Sister Cities International Agreement Grand Rapids entered into with Gangnam-gu District, South Korea.
Founders Brewing Co., the city’s largest brewery, is on the southwest corner of the intersection, just in case you’re in need of refreshments before heading back into the city center.