The Vamonde app and website, contains content to help users experience the cities they visit like a local. Each city’s stories, written by local experts and influencers, include “must-see” spots and experiences.
Because the art scene is an integral part of Grand Rapids, there’s an entire section in Vamonde for Grand Rapids devoted to Art Around the Corner, containing art you can’t miss while you’re in town.
I encourage you to visit all 10 of the Art Around the Corner spots featured in Vamonde. They each have an interesting place in Grand Rapids’ history and are easy to access as you walk around Downtown. To help you get started, here’s a short description of four of them.
An integral part of Grand Rapids, a likeness of La Grande Vitesse is in the city's official logo.
Photo by Experience Grand Rapids
La Grande Vitesse, located in Vandenberg “Calder” Plaza
In 1967, Grand Rapids commissioned American sculptor Alexander Calder, widely considered one of the most important American sculptors of the 20th century, to create a piece of art for the city. Two years later, La Grande Vitesse was installed in Vandenberg Plaza. The sculpture celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2019.
The bright red, 42-ton sculpture measures 54 feet long, 43 feet high, and 30 feet wide. The sculpture is a great photo op and has long been a favorite photo spot for locals and visitors to Grand Rapids.
La Grande Vitesse was the first public artwork funded by the Art in Public Places program of the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), making it an important part of history for both Grand Rapids and the United States. The sculpture and plaza have come to be known as “The Calder” and “Calder Plaza” respectively, as a nod to the sculptor.
The installation of La Grande Vitesse showed city leaders the power of public art, inspired a flourishing public arts program, and became a symbol of Grand Rapids’ creative and artistic spirit, which continues to thrive today.
The sculpture has become such a part of Grand Rapids’ history that artist Joseph Kinnebrew incorporated its likeness into the city's official logo. You’ll even see it on the city’s garbage trucks. Its name is also a tribute to the Grand River, as it translates to “the great swiftness.”
Reinforcing its importance to the city, the plaza where La Grande Vitesse is located is the centerpiece of Grand Rapids’ annual Festival of the Arts celebration, held every year since 1970, and for many other cultural events including the Hispanic and Pride Festivals. In the summertime, you’ll also find lots of fun food trucks parked for locals and visitors to enjoy.
The name "Motu Viget" is Latin for "strength in activity."
Photo by Brian Craig for Experience Grand Rapids
Motu Viget, located in Calder Plaza
Made from 12-tons of industrial steel I-beams and rubber, this kinetic sculpture, designed by Mark di Suvero in 1977, stands 33-feet high.
Motu Viget has a controversial history. The sculptor, now a National Medal of Arts honoree, originally created a 40-foot tall steel structure in Grand Rapids as part of a 1973 exhibition. That structure was moved to the National Mall in Washington, D.C. and the U.S. General Services Administration commissioned a new sculpture for Grand Rapids.
The new piece di Suvero designed varied so dramatically from the original that the General Services Administration considered rejecting it. Grand Rapids residents, who wanted the new sculpture installed despite the fact that it was so different from the original, wrote letters and signed a petition to have Motu Viget permanently installed.
The people prevailed, and the new piece was installed in 1997 on the lawn behind the Gerald R. Ford Federal Building, on the Northwest corner of Calder Plaza. Its name, Motu Viget, is a Latin phrase that means, “strength in activity.” It’s also the official city motto of Grand Rapids.
When you visit the sculpture, you’ll see that it does promote activity. The industrial I-beams support a seven-foot-wide rubber tire, which is suspended in the air, resulting in its nickname, “the tire swing.”
The sculpture was removed and re-engineered in 2013 for safety, making it stronger than before. Generations of local children and adults alike have enjoyed swinging on the giant sculpture.
Ecliptic artist, Maya Lin, also created the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C.
Photo by Experience Grand Rapids; Ecliptic, by Maya Lin
Ecliptic, located in Rosa Parks Circle
Local swing dance fans and ice skating enthusiasts know all about the unique sculpture by Maya Lin called Ecliptic. Installed in 2001 and located in the 3.5-acre plaza known as Rosa Parks Circle, Lin designed a 13,000-square-foot oval concrete amphitheater, Ecliptic as experiential art.
During the warmer months, Ecliptic hosts concerts, cultural festivals, and large public events, like watching the Olympics.
In the winter, it’s used an ice skating rink, where stars appear to twinkle from beneath its surface. The 166 fiber optic lights are part of the sculpture itself and mirror the stars in the sky over Grand Rapids at midnight on January 1, 2000, the start of the new millennium.
The ice in the skating rink is one of three ways the sculpture incorporates different forms of water, illustrating the importance of the Grand River to Grand Rapids. Besides the solid form in the winter ice rink, the sculpture also features a mist fountain, representing water in vapor form, and a tablet of flowing water, representing water in liquid form.
Water is often a theme in Maya Lin’s work, which includes the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C.
In 2017, the American Planning Association named Rosa Parks Circle one of the top five public spaces in America.
The shapes in the The River’s Edge reflect the wildlife typically found by a river, like fish and birds.
Photo by Brian Craig for Experience Grand Rapids
The River’s Edge, the Grand River
This 25-foot tall abstract painted steel sculpture was created by internationally acclaimed sculptor James Clover in 1988. As you walk around it, you’ll see that he designed it so the organic and geometric forms appear to playfully interact with one another. With each step around The River’s Edge, the shapes appear to shift slightly, interacting with the others in different ways.
The shapes in The River’s Edge reflect the wildlife typically found by a river, like fish and birds. Like many of Clover’s sculptures, it reaches towards the sky and appears almost improvisational, reflecting his love of jazz.
You’ll find The River’s Edge on the downtown campus of Grand Valley State University (GVSU), where Clover taught for many years. Clover has other sculptures around the country, but locally you can see more of his work on GVSU’s Allendale and Holland campuses and in the nearby cities of Grand Haven and Muskegon.
More Art Around The Corner
When you download the Vamonde app, click “Grand Rapids,” then scroll to “Art Around the Corner” to find more information about these public works of art. The Vamonde app also highlights the locations of the artwork, making them easy to find. In addition to the four we profiled, there are six more public works of art on Vamonde:
Not to be confused with The River’s Edge by James Clover, you’ll find this granite and stone sculpture by Michael Singer and Saski Associates Inc. downtown, integrated into the river’s landscape.
Like Ecliptic, this bronze sculpture, a tribute to the “Mother of the Civil Rights Movement,” is located in Rosa Parks Circle.
Located adjacent to the Grand River and the JW Marriott Hotel, this 33-foot structure uses steel-shaped waves to commemorate Grand Rapids becoming the first city in the world to add fluoride to its drinking water.
Three figures, carved and cast by Roberto Chenlo, symbolize the people involved with and affected by the great furniture strike of 1911.
This Pop Art-style sculpture by Hy Zelkowitz, which resembles a 14-foot-wide red button, was installed for Grand Rapids’ 1976 Festival of the Arts. Its buttonholes are large enough to peek through, providing a great photo op.
Built in 1933, the George Welsh Civic Auditorium escaped the demolition that razed the other buildings on its block over time. It features two square limestone relief sculptures on the exterior front façade by Corrado Parducci called “Fine Arts” and “Music.”
Download Vamonde and Share Your Experiences
You can find out more about each of these works of art – and where to locate them – in the Vamonde app. Be sure to download it, explore art throughout the city, and share your experiences!