Artists are being sought to enhance downtown Grand Rapids and celebrate local heritage and the community’s connection to water.

Approval for the Arts and Culture Commission to submit Requests for Qualifications (RFQ) from artists to create one large mural and three sculptures was granted by the Grand Rapids City Council on Monday, Oct. 22. This call for artists is in response to the commission’s award of a Downtown Business Corridor Grant from the Minnesota Department of Iron Range Resources and Rehabilitation for a highly visible and creative project that creates excitement, encourages citizen engagement and generates visible improvements.

The Arts and Culture Commission wants the sculptures to have a water theme and the mural to reflect the natural environment or the significant relationship that historical and contemporary Ojibwe and/or Dakota people have with this area. One artist will be commissioned to create the sculptures and one artist will be commissioned to create the mural.

Three sculptures

“Water plays a critical role in the community’s quality of life - from the Mississippi River, to the many lakes in the region, water is central to the city’s natural beauty and recreational opportunities, as well as to public health and safety,” begins the commission’s sculpture project description. “In addition, it is important to honor the significance that water has had for our region’s diverse communities and, in particular, critical for Ojibwe and Dakota people, who understand that ‘water is life.’ Knowing what a watershed is, where our water comes from and goes to, and how we can each play a role in preserving its function and value is important, but rarely understood.”

The commission is hoping this public art initiative will raise awareness of both the many water resources available to Grand Rapids, and the everyday actions citizens and businesses can take to improve water quality. The sculpture designs must be engaging, interactive in some way and evoke curiosity of passers-by such as through color, movement, or material. It is requested that these artworks highlight where water comes from, either physically or spiritually, and consider natural processes in some way.

The three sculptures will act as a series to tell a story together. One sculpture will be of a larger scale than the other two. Pre-selected sites for the three sculptures are located on corners of NE First Avenue and Itasca Street, NW Third Avenue and NE Fifth Street, and NW First Avenue and NE Fifth Street.

The budget for all three sculptures is $30,000. The selected artist/team can determine the budget for each artwork, as long as the total for all expenses does not exceed this amount.


“Grand Rapids is a significant location for Ojibwe and Dakota people, who had been living throughout northern Minnesota when the first settlers arrived in this area. The Pillager and the Mississippi bands had homes and villages on or near Cass Lake, Lake Winnibigoshish and Leech Lake,” begins the project description for the mural.

The commission is requesting that the mural acknowledge and honor the significant relationship that historical and contemporary Ojibwe and/or Dakota people have with this area or focus on the local flora, fauna and natural elements that are important to the region’s ecosystem and communities.

With Grand Rapids’ motto, “It’s in Minnesota’s Nature,” artists are to consider the area’s many outdoor recreation opportunities with thousands of miles of trails, more than 1,000 area lakes, the Chippewa National Forest, the Hill River State Forest and George Washington Forest all nearby.

The mural will be located on the west facade of the Chalupsky building on the SW corner of NE First Avenue and NE Fourth Street. The budget for the mural is $20,000 and this is to include all fees, materials, transportation, installation, storage, permits and insurance.

Artist applicants must be residents of Minnesota, preferably from northern Minnesota. They must have produced at least two commissioned public art projects of similar scale and budget within the past ten years. And, the commission is asking the artist to work with an early-career artist on the project.

Detailed information on the projects and the list of required submission materials is posted on the city’s website at

Deadline for submitting RFQs is Nov. 26. A committee will review and select three finalists for each project on Dec. 4 and ask for council approval of the selected artists/teams on Dec. 17. The preliminary design concepts will be presented to the commission on Feb. 5.


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