There is a street named Wealthy in our city running East to West. It begins in an old affluent suburb called East Grand Rapids and cuts across the city 'till it putters out, on the edge of town past the old scrap yard and the Coca-Cola bottling plant on the West side. About half way through its length it crosses over the 131 freeway on what is called the Wealthy Street Overpass. When you stand on this overpass and look north you get a wonderful view of the city -- forever pulsing and moving. I have set up with easel and canvas or charcoal and paper countless times over the past 29 years to do my best to capture what I see. There is something profound that happens when you return to the same subject over and over again. You build a relationship. You sink down beyond the obvious, into the subtle and deeper meanings. What does it mean to really belong to a city? What does it mean to make a personal contribution -- appropriate to your skills and vision? How can you begin to see it, Really see it?
Over time I have seen buildings come down, and buildings go up. When I began painting and drawing Grand Rapids -- just back from graduate school in Illinois, in 1986, no one lived downtown except the street people in the rescue missions and the poor and elderly at the Morton House. Downtown was a ghost town after 5PM. The city has changed. Now it is filled with people living in buildings many of which were once sites of manufacturing like the Globe Knitting Works Building, that was once a place for making clothes and is now a beautifully renovated apartment building.
When Brenda and I share a kombucha at a cafe table in front of the Lantern Coffee around 8:00 on a Tuesday evening, there are all kinds of people young and old walking by. There is always a swarm of young hipsters out in front of the Pyramid Scheme just down the street sharing a smoke.
I want to contribute to the city where I live by making paintings that in some way capture its unique beauty and personality. A place that began to develop as a fur trading post along the river. A place once known as the furniture capitol of the world. Grand Rapids, a city of churches. A place that before the European settlers came, the indigenous people flourished in a natural paradise for thousands of years along the banks of the longest river in the state once known as the Awash-ta-nong, or "far away waters".
I truly love this city and my connection grows deeper and stronger with every painting I make.