Sculptures & Historic Buildings
Download a Tour Map
Outdoor Arts Inspirations is a printable brochure with self-guided walking tours of downtown outdoor sculpture and historic buildings.
Explore the art on the beautiful campus of Grand Valley State University.
Visit the exhibition space at Kendall College of Art and Design.
Visit the Center Art Gallery at Calvin College, featuring exhibits by students, faculty, alumni, and noted secular and religious artists.
Art is everywhere you look in downtown Grand Rapids, in the form of sculptures, murals and historic buildings.
Start at the masterpiece that started it all - La Grand Vitesse, the massive red Alexander Calder sculpture that was installed in front of City Hall in 1969 and has come to symbolize the city's artistic spirit.
You're just steps away from Motu Viget, a kinetic art creation of famed sculptor Mark di Suvero. It is, in essence, a giant tire swing - suitable for kid's play!
It's a short walk south to Rosa Parks Circle, a community amphitheatre designed by Vietnam Veterans Memorial artist Maya Lin. The space converts to an ice rink in winter. A statue of civil rights pioneer Rosa Parks stands not far away.
Rosa Parks Circler
It's a three-minute walk southwest to Grand Rapids Children's Museum. One exterior wall of the museum features Imagine That!, a glittering mosaic mural by artist Tracy Van Duinen. Van Duinen donated the art to the city after it won second prize in the inaugural ArtPrize competition. Another large-scale Van Duinen work, Metaphorest, graces the outside of the WMCAT building, just 300 feet from the museum.
Step west around the corner of the Children's Museum and you'll see Veteran's Memorial Park, which is home to Soldier's Monument by sculptor Leon Coquard as well as busts of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow and influential 19th century Grand Rapids businessman Thomas D. Gilbert.
Head further west to the Grand River and follow its banks north to see a number of sculptures, including River's Edge Environmental Sculpture by Michael Singer and a Fluoride Sculpture (Grand Rapids was the first city to add fluoride to its water supply, in 1945) near the JW Marriott.
Stop at the south entrance of DeVos Place to view the façade reliefs created by artist Corrado Parducci as part of a Depression-era public works project. These reliefs were saved when the original Civic Auditorium was converted to the existing performance hall and convention center.
Return south to downtown along the river's west bank. Note the three symbolic Indian mounds in Ah-Nab-Awen Park, outside Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum. These mounds represent the three major tribes of Michigan: the Ottawa, Potawatomi and Chippewa. Another point of notice is the burial grounds of President and Mrs. Ford on the grounds of the Museum, on a hillside spot that attracts a steady stream of people paying their respects to our native son and his dear wife.
Directly north of the Ford Museum, climb onto Lorrie's Button by artist Hy Zelkowitz, winner of a 1976 playground sculpture competition.
As you walk this tour you may also encounter artistic tributes to notable figures from the city's history. The Community Legends Sculpture Project is an ongoing initiative to erect 25 bronze statues honoring people who helped shape Grand Rapids. The collection currently includes statues of:
- Lucius Lyon, an early pioneer who served in the U.S. House and U.S. Senate.
- Chief Noonday, who led the Grand River Band of Ottawa Indians.
- Bishop Baraga, the "Snowshoe Priest" who bought Catholicism to Grand Rapids.
- Jay Van Andel, the co-founder of Amway Corporation whose philanthropy helped revive the downtown area.
- Lyman Parks, the city's first African-American mayor.
- Helen Claytor, the first African-American president of the national YMCA.
- Anna Sutherland Bissell, one of America’s first female corporate CEOs in 1889 after the death of her husband.
- Stanley Ketchel, a professional middleweight boxer born in Grand Rapids in 1886. Some boxing historians refer to Ketchel as the greatest fighter in middleweight division history.
This is just a small sampling of dozens of significant sculptures and buildings lining downtown streets. Keep your eyes peeled on your journey!
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