Ottawa Hills students, artists to bring murals to Southeast GR

Grand Rapids

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — The Southeast side of Grand Rapids has been in headlines for shootings, homicides and other violent crimes, but some neighbors and members of The Diatribe are trying to change the narrative.

“We see cop cars, we see break-ins, we see stories that don’t capture how truly royal and dynamic the residents are that live here,” said Marel Fable Price, executive director of The Diatribe and former poet laureate of Grand Rapids.

Price said The Diatribe is working to redesign the landscape of the neighborhoods that are within the 49507 area code through murals. It’s part of what’s called the 49507 Project, an anti-racism initiative designed to teach Ottawa Hills High School juniors about art, gentrification, redlining and housing discrimination.

“Our zip code will start to have an image, a vibe, a charisma to it that will grow as the art grows in our neighborhood each year,” Price said.

The students will work with The Diatribe members, business owners, neighbors, community leaders and seven Black and brown artists to design the murals. The artwork will be placed on seven different Southeast side buildings, like the Old Goat, to represent the resilience and pride in the area.

The Old Goat in Southeast Grand Rapids, where a mural will be painted later this year. (May 4, 2021)

“To celebrate that and to pull it out, is truly the most important thing we can do,” the director of education for The Diatribe, who goes by only Gleason, said.

With the approval of some city commissioners and financial support, in part, from the National Endowment of the Arts, The Diatribe members said they are eager to move forward by bringing light to some of the neighborhood’s darkest places.

“This type of work is necessary,” said Price.

The Diatribe said the artists will start working on the murals by the end of August or early September. 

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