The healing power of art came to downtown Grand Rapids as artists transformed boarded-up windows into beautiful paintings exploring peace and justice.
“Art will heal the world,” said Asia Horne, one of the artists organizing the event. “And we want to heal.”
The windows were broken May 30, in the first night of nationwide protests over the death of George Floyd. Multiple peaceful protests have occurred on downtown streets in the days since then.
Grand Rapids, Michigan, artists began to work with the city and other supporters to transform the plywood coverings into paintings promoting social justice and unity.
As artist Tylan Davis created a mural at the AC Hotel by Marriott, the Spectrum Health Cancer Center set up a tent nearby to provide shade and water to the artists and their helpers.
“As health care professionals, we understand the healing power artistic expression can have,” said Katherine Williams, an event planner for the cancer center. “We understand the value this moment of togetherness can have for the community.”
Through his artwork, Davis encouraged dialogue. His painting includes pictures of ears and mouths and proclaims in bold letters, “Listen up.”
Other organizations supporting the project include Downtown Grand Rapids Inc., Lions and Rabbits art gallery, CWD Real Estate and Rockford Construction.
Horne, an art director, helped to place artists for the initiative. Many of the creators in the diverse group are Black artists.
“I really wanted to amplify Black voices at this time,” she said. “Now that the community is giving us a chance to speak and to listen to our concerns, let us start a conversation here.”
Those conversations, along with the power of art, can be healing.
“In this time in life, the earth is having a reset,” she said. “We all need to be conscious of our mental health, our physical health and emotional health, especially at this time with so many things going on.”