Southtown is a large and diverse neighborhood of Grand Rapids. Many of the residents of Southtown were and are Black and Brown people who have been historically marginalized by structural inequities. As such, they have a unique take on life in Grand Rapids – and that perspective is often reflected in their art.
The 49507 Project is a public arts project that enlists local businesses and artists to raise awareness about redlining and disinvestment in Southtown (the 49507 zip code) and residents’ efforts to combat racism and inequity. The project is organized by The Diatribe, a local nonprofit dedicated to using restorative art to disrupt historical systems of oppression.
There have been 15 murals created as part of the 49507 Project to date, all included on the tour below, and more are coming. You can read more about the genesis of the 49507 Project, which dates back to 2021, here.
Southtown extends over a wide area, so you’ll probably want to experience this tour by vehicle. (The Rapid bus system covers much of the tour route.) If you’re consulting other maps and sources, note that Cesar E. Chavez Ave. was known as Grandville Ave. through early 2022, and you may still encounter the prior name.
This is not a comprehensive listing of Southown murals – there are others that were created outside the 49507 Project, so keep an eye out on your travels. Also, be sure to check out our other mural tours, which include City Center, Heartside, North Quarter, Uptown and West Side routes, as well as the Rad Women A-Z Initiative, which spans 26 mechanical boxes in the downtown area.
If you’re embarking on the tour from downtown Grand Rapids, take Cesar E. Chavez Ave. south from Weston St. (Bistro Bella Vita is on the corner.) You’ll pass additional food and drink establishments – including Grand Woods Lounge, Founders Brewing and MudPenny – on the way to the first mural, all great places to fuel up for your journey. Not hungry yet? Click here and scroll down for restaurants along the tour route.
“The Pursuit of Equality, Diversity, and Dignity”
701 Cesar Chavez Ave. SW
Artists Arturo Morales Romero and Rryuhn Dotson covered the exterior walls of this business – Samaria J’s Salon – with two murals depicting scenes of Black life and history. This is one of two Romero-Dotson collaborations on the tour.
Continue South on Cesar Chavez to Hall St. On your way, you will see two noteworthy murals that are not part of the 49507 Project. They are on opposite sides of B St. SW at Cesar Chavez Ave:
- “The Rumsey Building Mural” by Erick Picardo, a Hispanic/Latino and Caribbean immigrant descendant, at 880 Cesar Chavez Ave. SW.
- “Nuestra Historia, Nuestra Voz,” a creation of high school students from the Hispanic Center of Western Michigan and the Cook Arts Center.
The next traffic light to the south is Hall St. Turn left (east) on Hall and follow it about one half mile to Buchanan Ave. Go south (right) on Buchanan Ave. about 3/10 of a mile, just past Stevens St.
“The Divine Feminine”
1405 Buchanan Ave SW
The power of the “divine feminine,” rooted in nature and self-empowerment, is a recurring theme for artist Kristin Zuller. She explored it on a large scale in this mural, painted on a building formerly housing Public Thread, a female-led, community-based business.
Travel east on Stevens St. to Division Ave. Turn right (south) on Division and go about a half mile on Division Ave. to the Griggs St. intersection.
“Play with Me/Juega Conmigo”
1801 Division Ave. S.
Aleman Auto Repair is the site of this mural by Hugo Claudin, which depicts a Black child catching bubbles blown by a LatinX woman. The Honduran flag and a Honduran chieftain from the 1500s give a nod to the local Honduran community. The auto repair shop is on the southwest corner of the intersection.
Continue south on Division, about 7/10 of a mile, to the intersection of Division and Alger St.
“Con La Frente El Alto”
2355 Division Ave. S
Erick Picardo (whose work was also seen at 880 Cesar Chavez Ave.) painted two murals on the south side of La Casa De La Cabio, which offers a wide variety of clothing and other goods. The murals seamlessly portray a colorful multitude of cultures and heritages.
Now go east on Alger St. about one half mile to Madison Ave. Turn left (north) on Madison and travel about 8/10 of a mile to the intersection of Madison and Brown St.
1721 Madison Ave. SE
Self-styled “artpreneur” Edwin Anderson painted this mural on the south-facing wall of Load-a-Spud Potato Bar. It includes this quote from Maya Angelou: “The more you know your history, the more liberated you are.”
Continue north on Madison about 6/10 of a mile, just past Crawford St.
1221 Madison Ave. SE
Artist Joshua Solas depicts individuals running to share their wealth with their families and communities. Per Solas’ artist statement, “For a healthy community to exist, it’s important to help each other, fill each other’s gaps, so we can become a more well-rounded community.” The mural is painted on the south side of Boost Mobile.
Follow Madison about 7/10 of a mile to Thomas St. Turn right (east) on Thomas and travel about one half mile to Eastern Ave. Turn right (south) on Eastern.
"Enjoying The Roots Of Our Positive Struggle"
703 Eastern Ave. SE
Facing Thomas St. on the northwest corner of the Thomas-Eastern intersection is this mural by E’lla Webber, who said, “I want to convey that at our roots, we are very much connected.” The building itself is being rehabbed by local entrepreneur Darel Ross to serve as the HQ for his Forty Acres Enterprises. Ross is also the founder of Forty Acres Soul Kitchen in GR’s Uptown neighborhood.
Continue south on Eastern roughly 1.6 miles to the Burton St. intersection.
1956 Eastern Ave. SE
Burton Village BBQ occupies the building on the northeast corner of the intersection. Part of the building is adorned with a mural by artist Mila Lyn, who depicts a diverse group of little girls freeing hummingbirds to carry joy, positivity and healing to the community.
Continue south on Eastern a few hundred feet to the first driveway past the Burton St. intersection.
2012 Eastern Ave. SE
On the east side of the street, facing the driveway, is this mural by Esan Sommersell depicting generations of joyous Black people. The painting highlights the desire to build wealth to pass on the next generation while making a point about health disparities in the Black community.
2434 Eastern Ave. SE
Continue south on Eastern about one half mile, just past the next traffic light (Alger St.). Look for the first driveway on the east side of the street, about 500 feet from the intersection.
Artist Tony WHLGN created this fun, imaginative piece on an exterior wall of the Old Goat restaurant, a popular Alger Heights destination. The mural tells the tale of “a nurturing community of different cultural backgrounds and togetherness.”
2435 Eastern Ave
On the opposite side of the street, artist Wanda Moreno painted a mural on the north-facing wall of Farmers Insurance. The art incorporates the quote, “When in doubt, remember you belong here too.”
Go back north on Eastern to the Alger St. intersection and turn right (east). Follow Alger roughly 7/10 of mile to Kalamazoo Ave. Turn left (north) on Kalamazoo. Travel about 1.5 miles on Kalamazoo. Look for the South East Market, a small brick building, on the east side of the street, just before you reach Hall St.
1220 Kalamazoo Ave SE
Artist Octavia Thorns (aka Octavia Mingerink) incorporated positive affirmations into this bright, colorful mural to encourage viewers to “continue chasing their dreams and venturing on their individual journey.” It’s on the left side of the building.
“Palettes of Circumstance”
1216 Kalamazoo Ave SE
Directly opposite “Bloom” is this mural by Arturo Morales Romero and Rryuhn Dotson (who also collaborated on the mural showcased at the start of this tour). This piece depicts members of the community admiring portraits of significant historical figures.
Continue north on Kalamazoo a few hundred feet to the light at Hall St. Turn left (west) on Hall St. and follow it about one mile to just past the Jefferson Ave. intersection.
“[They] Teach us to speak up for Yourself”
123 Hall St. SE
On the north side of the street, opposite the Gerald R. Ford Job Corps Center, is a mural by artist Bakpak Durden. The artist says the piece “represents another stage in the revolutionary sequence of pulling up our own chairs and demanding to be heard.” A young person is shown towing a chair behind them, with self-seeding lilies dropping in their wake to inspire new activism.
Follow Hall St. about 1/10 of a mile to Division Ave. Turn right (north) on Division and travel about 6/10 of a mile to Martin Luther King Jr. St.
800 Division Ave. S.
The building on the southeast corner of the Division-MLK Jr. intersection is Cisneros Tire Service. You will not miss the mural on the corrugated metal wall facing Division St. This brightly colored piece by artist Alynn Guerra depicts (among other things) a skeleton on a tire swing representing the culture of the local community as it navigates redlining, racism and gentrification.
Turn left (west) on MLK Jr. St. and follow it about 6/10 of a mile to Cesar E. Chavez Ave., the road where you started your journey. Turning right (north) on Cesar E. Chavez will bring you back to downtown Grand Rapids.