The 49507 Project is a liberated public arts project unlike anything that I’ve seen in West Michigan. The Diatribe, a Grand Rapids based nonprofit, partnered with local businesses and artists to raise awareness about redlining and disinvestment in the Southside neighborhoods, and they did so in a way that centers the voices and experiences of those residents. I share how The 49507 Project came to be in this story.
Each piece contains a story worth more than a thousand words, and each business owner plays a significant role in the 49507 community. I’d encourage you to check out all seven murals and businesses for yourself! While you’re visiting, be sure to scan the accompanying QR code at each site. You will be brought into a 3D map that will help you see the lasting impact of redlining in Grand Rapids as you go from mural to mural.
If you are going out early in the day, I recommend starting at “Respirando Esperanza” mural at La Casa De La Cobija, and grabbing a yogurt from nearby Los 3 Mangos. For more places to eat while you explore the murals, I share a list of other Southside staples below.
"Respirando Esperanza" by Erick Picardo A.K.A. PICARDO
Photo by Duane Bacchus for 49507 Project. Artist: Erick Picardo A.K.A. PICARDO.
“Respirando Esperanza” by Erick Picardo
Located at La Casa De La Cobia, 2355 Division Ave S.
About the Business/Building Owner: Angelica Velazques, who is described by community members as a literal “blanket to the community.” She supported the neighborhood during the pandemic by disseminating information about COVID-19, and she even turned her business into a vaccine site.
About the Mural: Picardo, a Hispanic / Latino and Caribbean immigrant descendant, aimed to display the different layers of “LATINIDAD” in his piece. This mural conveys a colorful multitude of cultures and heritage that speaks to the variety of experiences represented in the neighborhood. Picardo states that “we are part of the most talented, hard workers and genuine people.” This piece is a pure representation of people that came from Spanish-speaking countries and will help "push back against forces of gentrification."
"As Above So Below" by Kristin Zuller (pictured here)
Photo by Alee’a Cherry for 49507 Project. Artist: Kristin Zuller.
“As Above So Below” by Kristin Zuller
Located at Public Thread, 1405 Buchanan Ave SW
About the Business/Building Owners: Lisa Knight and Janay Brower, whose business, Public Thread, upcycles textiles to keep them out of landfills. The owners each have vast experience in non-profit work and a passion for serving the community.
About the Mural: This is what “liberation and reclamation” look like to Lisa and Janay. Artist Kristin Zuller aimed to capture the raw, genuine energy that these two women have for their mission and how their past experiences led them to where they are now. This piece represents growth, abundance, and offerings to our ancestors, and it incorporates feedback from the residents of the Southside neighborhood by depicting joy, happiness, and strength.
"Everybody Eats" by Josh Solas (A.K.A. Solasink)
Photo by Aki Bang for 49507 Project. Artist: Josh Solas (A.K.A. Solasink).
“Everybody Eats” by Joshua Solas
Located at Boost Mobile, 1221 Madison Ave SE
About the Business/Building Owner: Henry Pena was raised in the Southside and sits on boards for the Garfield Park Neighborhood Association and the Burton Heights Business District. As a first-generation business owner, he inspires so many people in his community and cares deeply for his neighborhood.
About the Mural: Themes of love, aspiration, and community resonate through this piece by Joshua Solas. Rather than running alone, these figures are running to their family to “share the wealth.” “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,” says Solas. This piece encourages viewers to run for the right reasons, face their obstacles head-on, and stand in their power and purpose.
"Enjoying the Roots of our Positive Struggle" by E'lla Webber (pictured here)
Photo by Leda Theres for 49507 Project. Artist: E'lla Webber.
“Enjoying the Roots of our Positive Struggle” by E’lla Webber
Located at 40 Acres Consulting, 703 Eastern Ave SE
About the Business/Building Owner: Darel Ross, a Southside native, has done many things to improve the community through his work in financial empowerment, housing, entrepreneurship, and more.
About the Mural: Smile, laughter, joy, and Black families. These are some of the things that the community said we just don’t see enough of. This lack indicates that there is a lock of togetherness, and E’lla Webber wanted to change that narrative. “I want to convey that at our roots, we are very much connected,” says Webber. This piece not only beautifies the community but makes a strong statement.
"Bloom" by Octavia Thorns (pictured here)
Photo by Isabel Lopez for 49507 Project. Artist: Octavia Thorns.
“Bloom” by Octavia Thorns
Located at South East Market, 1220 Kalamazoo Ave SE
About the Business/Building Owners: Alita Kelly and Khara Dewit own The South East Market and have lived in the community for over a decade. They source many items from Black and Brown farms and business owners.
About the Mural: Educate, strengthen, and provide. While history tries to erase important figures, Octavia Mingerink felt it was important to shed light on historical figures that can help to educate and increase confidence among young people. The positive affirmations “encourage those viewing it to thrive and continue chasing their dreams and venturing on their individual journey,” says Mingerink. This piece screams “FREEDOM” and serves as a reminder that “we aren’t free until everyone is free.”
"Generational W(h)ealth" by Esan Sommersell A.K.A. Pluto Monday (pictured here)
Photo by Rich P Photography for 49507 Project. Artist: Esan Sommersell A.K.A. Pluto Monday.
“Generational W(h)ealth” by Esan Sommersell
Located at Grand Rapids Area Black Businesses, 2012 Eastern Ave SE
About the Business/Building Owner: Jamiel Robinson is a Grand Rapids native who aims to financially empower Black residents and business owners. His work centers on Black entrepreneurship, empowerment, and equity.
About the Mural: “Your health is wealth.” This piece by Esan Sommersell reminds us of the importance of mental health in the Black community. Happiness is exalted in this piece and, while surrounded by treasures, “their happiness is the most important,” says Sommersell.
"Kinfolk" by Tony WHLGN
Photo by Amahri Howland (@Phordprefect) for 49507 Project. Artist: Tony WHLGN.
“Kinfolk” by Tony WHLGN
Located at The Old Goat, 2434 Eastern Ave SE
About the Business/Building Owner: Cory Demint, owner of The Old Goat, a restaurant in the center of Alger Heights. The restaurant has largest exterior wall in the business district, making it a perfect place for this mural. Demint says he has found a home in Grand Rapids through food, family, and spreading joy to the community.
About the Mural: 220.127.116.11.7 - “A story of a nurturing community of different cultural backgrounds and togetherness.” This fun, imaginative piece speaks pride to the community and show that while we can take pride in our differences, we can also embrace these differences together.
Places to Eat During Your Tour
Each of the businesses provided below are in the Southside neighborhood and are owned mostly by BIPOC residents.
If you are going out early, start at La Casa De La Cobija, and grab a yogurt from Tres Mangos.
After you finish your rounds, get breakfast or brunch at:
For lunch or dinner I’d recommend:
- 6 min story
Over the early fall of 2021, seven murals created by seven local BIPOC artists came to life in Grand Rapids’ Southside neighborhood. The driving force behind them? The Diatribe Inc., a local non-profit organization whose leadership is intentionally BIPOC and LGBTQ+ and whose mission is to…
- 7 min story
Celebrating Grand Rapids means celebrating the people, traditions, cultures, and of course, food! This story was first published in 2018 commemorate Black History Month, and Experience Grand Rapids has updated it every year since. This year, I'm happy be the one to help to make current the list…