I left the Grand Rapids main branch library last night as it was closing with a back-pack full of Grand Rapids history books. They have all been published at different times over the years. One of the books, The History Of Grand Rapids written by Charles Tuttle was first published in 1874. His memories and observations are of a person who saw the very beginnings of our city firsthand and it is fascinating to read. I can't help but wonder how these early origins in some way continue to play out in our evolving story.
Fur trading with the First Nation people, gypsum mines and plaster works, logging and furniture building, flour mills and several large hotels-- these are all some of the early ways that the citizens of our city first where employed. Generations have come and gone leaving behind their various contributions and grave markers in the city cemeteries. We become busy with our own lives and overwhelmed with our own problems and hectic schedules. We seldom if ever take time to hear the stories of the people who lived here before. I read one story of a man who carried a letter written to a sweetheart back in the East in his waistcoat for four months. It took him that long to come up with the two shillings that would pay the postage. His girl would eventually join him in Grand Rapids where they got married. That kind of patience and perseverance is incredible to consider in our day of instant messaging.
I love the patchwork of these stories from the past. It reminds me that we are all a part of a much larger story. Every day we have the opportunity to add our own contribution to what our city is in the process of becoming. My ArtPrize project this year is entitled City As Muse and with it I am taking a look at who we are as a city. I am allowing my love for this place to overflow its banks like the Grand River swelling with these Spring rains. I want to let my art making become like a prayer that calls for God's continued blessing as well as mercy on our community along the river. My hope is that every citizen might be able to come into the best possible version of themselves while the city in tandem does the same.
City As Muse is made possible by investment from the following local businesses: