Enhancing community pride, boosting tourism and adding beauty through public art

“The beauty and pride in public art have long been documented as creating value for a community, enhancing community pride, improving placemaking and adding beauty,” says Carla M. Flanders, CEO of CMF Marketing.

In collaboration with Westside Beautify, Flanders is currently working on a public art project that will be painted on local gathering place, Blue Dog Tavern. The interactive, permanent mural will be completed by international artist Kelsey Montague. 

“I used to live on the West Side, just off Tamarack,” she says. Despite relocating approximately 20 years ago, Flanders is still tied to the neighborhood. “So much change has occurred in the area since then, yet the heart of the community is and will always be, "westside," — still Grand Rapids, but a personality of its own,” she says.

For her, despite continued community and art scene growth, opportunity still exists for expansion in areas like the West Side. “The Grand Rapids art scene and tourism has continued to grow exponentially [but] a lot of the art is centered around the downtown area. The westside of GR has also been growing by leaps and bounds,” she says. “We wanted to showcase this growth and help residents and visitors alike find hidden art gems off the beaten path and explore beyond their normal boundaries into places they might not have ever ventured [to].”

Having worked with Montague previously, Flanders knew she would be a great fit for this installation. “Kelsey Montague murals are of particular notoriety because they invite participants to become part of the art by ‘stepping into the art,’ taking a photo and sharing it on social media. Her images are light-hearted, feel-good and carry positive messaging with her motto #whatliftsyou,” Flanders says.

“Lisa Hovinga, creator of Westside Beautify and brainchild behind this project, has been a longtime admirer of Montague’s work,” Flanders shares. “She has traveled across the country to more than 13 murals in six states.”

Bringing Montague’s notoriety and fan following can provide additional impact to the community once the mural is completed. “We recognized that thousands of people were seeking out Kelsey Montague murals. Visiting the towns they were in and spending money in and around mural locations — why not bring it to Grand Rapids? Drive more tourism, enhance West Side pride, put Grand Rapids on the map and welcome not only residents [and] art lovers but the Kelsey Montague fans to Grand Rapids,” says Flanders.

Whether a lover of art, community beautification or something else, there is still an opportunity for individuals and organizations to be a part of supporting this project. “Whatever your reason, we hope that individuals and businesses consider donating to this all-inclusive, barrier-free, community pride, neighborhood-enhancing, public art project,” Flanders says. “This is truly a grassroots effort. All the funds raised are going toward this project.” The project is expected to be completed by October and will consist of two murals — a larger mural and a smaller one which will provide an opportunity for children to interact with the art.

Flanders is optimistic that these types of initiatives will become more prevalent. “I'd love to continue to see collaboration, the old with the new and prosperity for all,” she says. 

For those interested in more information or the opportunity to donate to the project, information can be found here.

Photos courtesy of Westside Beautify Facebook Page

About Leandra Nisbet: Leandra Nisbet, Owner of Stingray Advisory Group LLC and Co-Owner of Brightwork Marine LLC, has over 15 years of experience in leadership, sales & marketing and graphic design. She helps businesses grow and assists with strategic planning, marketing concept development/implementation, risk management and financial organization. She is actively involved in the community, sitting on several Boards and committees, and has been recognized as one of the 40 Under 40 Business Leaders in Grand Rapids.

Contact Leandra Nisbet by email at [email protected]
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