Why the GRPM Collects from the Community.
The Museum believes in the importance of building a diverse collection so we can share stories that reflect our entire community. It’s important the GRPM tells stories as accurately and completely as possible so that a wide variety of perspectives are included and difficult topics can be addressed.
New Pieces to the GRPM Collections.
In 2020, the GRPM purchased three pieces of art for its Collections that were part of the Windows GR public art activation project. Recently, the GRPM recently purchased two more pieces entitled Black Lives Matter and Marsha P. Johnson Trans Flag created by local artists Edwin Anderson and April Bowen.
Learn more about the pieces from the artists’ perspectives and what it means to them to have their work be a part of the GRPM’s Permanent Collection.
Meet the Artists! Tell Us About Yourself.
Edwin: I am Edwin Anderson and I am from the southeast side of town in Grand Rapids, MI. I’m an artist and entrepreneur, and I sometimes like to go by an “artpreneur.” Being a part of my community is a big deal to me and I put in the effort to help create a better space where I’m from. I’ve been an artist since the beginning of my life. I believe the genius before me, my mother, passed down some of her talents along to me and I later found a way to make it my own. With art, I’m able to help share the stories of the ones who have been unheard or forgotten about, making a visual representation for people to see with their own eyes the stories that were left out of the picture. I use my art to help bring a connection among the community that it is located. I want the piece to start conversations and lead to people connecting. I look at it as in art activism and that’s what I’m doing.
April: My name is April Bowen, originally from Plymouth, IN, I moved to Grand Rapids in 2018. I received my degree in visual communication design, and have been self-identifying as an artist for just about all of my life. I love to center my work around activism and social justice, as visual art can sometimes be the most attention grabbing form of media.
Tell Us About Your Piece.
Edwin: The piece that was created here was a Black Lives Matter artwork that I wanted to create with my younger siblings. The name of this painting is called Say It Loud and it took about 2-3 days to finish. Although my youngins may not fully understand the impact and magnitude of their efforts of helping to be a part of this event, this will be a historical moment for the city of Grand Rapids and something to greatly remember.
The purpose for me to create this piece was to leave a message to those who didn’t understand the pain that many people of the Black community have been feeling. The feeling of not being heard, noticing that we’re not being seen, and that big final hurt of not receiving justice thus created emotional distress that was later felt throughout the whole country.
April: This mural was inspired by the trans icon Marsha P. Johnson and prompted in response to the murder of so many trans individuals throughout the U.S. and Puerto Rico. Johnson’s famous quote, “No Pride For Some Of Us, Without Liberation For All Of Us” reflects this sentiment every June as the LGBTQIA+ community gathers to participate in Pride. Not only do we demand an end to police brutality amongst our trans peers, but we will continue to fight for their rights until all members of our community achieve liberation. Although the LGBTQIA+ community still has strides to make in terms of protecting and accepting our trans members, Johnson started a movement of queer solidarity that will remain a timeless example of social change.
This mural proudly displays the colors of the trans flag; blue stripe representation for boys, pink stripe representation for girls, and the white stripe representing individuals who are still transitioning, identify as gender non-conforming, or identify as intersex. I chose to symbolize the lives lost with the icon of the butterfly because I felt this image truly captured the beauty behind a life of complete transformation and authenticity.
What Motivated You to Create Something for the Windows GR Project?
Edwin: With this painting I wanted the message to come across that it’s time for us to be heard and it’s going to take the collective of all our brothers and sisters of all ethnicities, nationalities and background so come together and move forward so that we all can achieve equal rights to a fair justice system and to know that our lives are all equal. With that, I wanted my siblings to help me paint this so they too have a stamp of contribution connected with this historical moment.
April: I wanted to take a stand against police brutality in my community and country. I was actively taking initiatives as a white person to work towards becoming an anti-racist. Allyship is often lip service for white people, and I knew that my participation was necessary if I wanted to truly help. Most of the time the best solution is just using your talents to amplify the message.
What Does it Feel Like Knowing Your Work is a Part of the Museum’s Permanent Collections?
Edwin: I feel very honored to be able to have my painting in the Museum’s Collections. It’s because it’s a confirmed stamp of history that took place and when looking back, you’ll be able to see my contribution to a successful artist’s call for art activism here in Grand Rapids. If I can be remembered for something here, this is what many people can remember me and my siblings by.
April: I’m beyond excited to be a small part of extending Marsha P. Johnson’s legacy into this community. She was a spark that initiated queer solidarity, and I’m thankful that the museum has recognized her life story assomething worth preserving. Her life and death is a beacon of education when it comes to the timeline of extreme violence that the trans community has and continues to experience.
Connect with the Artists!
Explore these pieces and the Museum’s Collections online at grpmcollections.org.