Guerrilla Volunteerism

Artwork from the Grand River Creative Corridor

Along a stretch of Grand River Avenue between Warren and Rosa Parks is a collection of public art created by more than 85 artists. This group of artists and their artwork are a part of the Grand River Creative Corridor (GRCC), a nonprofit organization and neighborhood revitalization project.

In 2010, Derek Weaver joined Ric Geyer to manage 4731, a building at 4731 Grand River Ave. that Geyer started as an art incubator. Weaver expanded on the establishment’s philosophy to include entrepreneurs; 4731 now houses recording, art and photography studios, hair salons, tattoo artists, a small church and a gallery space on the ground floor.

The idea for public art came about organically, as Weaver was driving down the street and saw a graffiti artist and pulled over to talk to him. Weaver asked the artist if he would paint the 4731 building. The response to the mural was quite positive, so Weaver had the artist paint another wall of the building. Weaver said it was a “kind of light bulb moment. What if we could use this to change the neighborhood?” More murals were commissioned on the walls of abandoned buildings and the walls of businesses along the corridor. Hundreds of volunteers were organized to clean up overgrown lots, which were then turned into art parks. Large wooden panels were put up and painted by a variety of artists from street artists to fine artists, all whom volunteered their time and materials. Most of the artists from the project are local, but with the project growing, it has started to attract outside artists from around the country and internationally — all prepared to help make Grand River that much … grander.

Take a drive over to Grand River Avenue; new artwork is being added all the time. 4731 Gallery is hosting Stretch the Strangle Hold: Artists Protest War: A Group Exhibition. The opening reception is 6-11 p.m. Saturday, Sept, 21. The show displays until Sept. 28. Check out a slideshow of before and after murals here.

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