Here are some of my thoughts from the Can Art Save Cities? talk last night at the Ladies Literary Club.
I used to have a painting studio on the West side of Grand Rapids in the 111 Godfrey building for one year back in 2004. I would ride my bike there going up Grandville Avenue and as I did this day after day I really began to fall in love with this neighborhood that once upon a time was a Dutch ghetto and now has been reinvented by our cities Hispanic population.
One of the things I really enjoy in this part of town is the steep roads that go down into the river valley and the beautiful sights they create. This is one of those old factory worker neighborhoods where the guys walked out the front door with a lunch pail and down the street to work in the plant.
The painting above was begun a few years ago and finished just this week. It is available here.
This new orginal drawing is availble here.
I recently had the experience of going to see The Hunger Games with my daughter Pearl. It was the first night the film was being shown and the theaters were mostly sold out so we found our selves driving out to the Celebration Theater in Kentwood. I grew up in Kentwood from 1960-1978. A lot has changed since I left. It was bazaar to drive down Kalamazoo Street and see nothing but franchise restaurants and strip malls in what I remember as farmer's fields and sections of woods. The world of the suburbs that spread out from the center city like cancer is a very different world than where we live in a 100+ year old neighborhood downtown. It was a shocking reminder of what the reality is for so many people living in a culture completely dependent of cars to get from place to place. It made me realize again the need to create walkable cities.
We have not owned a car now for going on seven years. We are a family (of seven living at home) that have found a way of life beyond the tyranny of the automobile. We walk, we take bikes and we ride the city bus to get to the places we need to go. If that doesn't do it we will seek out a car or truck to borrow from a friend. I have also discovered that hardware stores and lumberyards will deliver for a small fee which is very convenient. We have found that we simply don't leave the house as much as we used to. We tend to stay put which is nice when friends spontaneously stop by we are usually home to visit with them. When people call on the phone we are usually there to pick up and answer.