The Rapidian

The Artists of Heartside Gallery and Studio-- Walter Pinder

This dispatch was added by one of our Nonprofit Neighbors. It does not represent the editorial voice of The Rapidian or Community Media Center.

"I love music that deepens me. It envelopes me, takes me over."
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Walter sketching out some music bars in the studio

Walter sketching out some music bars in the studio /Heartside Gallery and Studio

His amazing crocheted earrings

His amazing crocheted earrings /Heartside Gallery and Studio

Black and white works on the wall at the studio

Black and white works on the wall at the studio /Heartside Gallery and Studio

Our featured artist for April is Walter Pinder. Here is a little about the artist, in the words of Heartside's Interim Art Coordinator, Alysha Lach:


It's hard to pick favorites when involved with such an invigorating array of talent, work and personality that consistently fuels the neighborhood. I would make a special case for Walter Pinder, an artist and neighbor I've admired since my first day on the studio floor. I excitably wear his crocheted earrings on most days, swing by for a quick hello and jig by his street music troupe while in a rush up Monroe Center, and always saw it as privilege to help hang his recent works on his studio's wall space.

We've obviously had plenty of chances to chat, but I finally was able to have a sit down with this mighty force about life and art. I didn't leave disappointed. 

Standing at a mighty 6' 8", Walter walks into a room demanding a presence without meaning to. His jovial nature automatically speaks otherwise. Beyond that is the same urgency that drove him to all of his talents he's collected up to now. And it is quite the list.

Crocheting started very young, in 7th grade where he grew up in Benton Harbor, MI. It was after trying knitting for a year and just not digging it that he was then shown crocheting through a friend, which he fell for instantly, and got a book to further his art right away. It was apparent early on that he was a sponge for knowledge. The first piece he ever sold was an afghan, with chocolate, white and caramel colors, to the city's librarian that same year.

"It made me feel incredible!" says Pinder. Though asked if this was something to get serious about he replies, "I never considered I'd be paid for work. I was transforming. Just enjoyed doing them."

The voice came early as well, as it often does. He would sing in church, listen to his mother sing, was in school choir from 7th grade all through senior year, and was chosen for state honor's choir in his 1978-1979 school year. The big dream though was to play.

"The dream was always to be a concert pianist. I would listen to the local stations in Benton Harbor play classical all the time. My favorite is Mozart. His work is always so cheerful," he says. Again though, he was all about being practical. He didn't see a trip from him to an academy any time soon. "Being poor I didn't know how to find those opportunities so I learned on my own."

In 1988 he moved up to Grand Rapids to be closer to more family. While some might have seen his move as a up-hill climb, he was constantly optimistic.

"I've had good people around me," says Pinder. I bartered with a woman to get voice lessons. I cleaned her house in exchange. That was the first time I traded goods and services!"

Instrumental came in waves. He was also surrounded by friends and neighbors who could play an instrument and was willing to show him a little.

"My pastor offered me his son's old saxophone, and I just started playing it." By the early 2000's he started jamming with people on the street. 

In 2004 he was also singing with Grand Rapids Community Chorus. After one of the concerts he was approached by his director, who also happened to be the opera chorus master of Grand Rapids Opera, who asked him to audition for their next performance. He was accepted on his first audition and has been singing with the opera group ever since. This love of opera was very new, though just as intense as his other passions.

"My favorite is Madame Butterfly," he says, which he also had the privilege of singing in. "Sad story. Tale of betrayal. Wrong intentions. The music does not let you go, this opera does not let you go 'til the last note. It just doesn't. So beautiful... I love music that deepens me. It envelopes me, takes me over."

It almost seems like a footnote that he also has a presence at Heartside Gallery and Studio, seeing his impact reaching so many niches of Grand Rapids. But this is where he paints, plays and prays. And often that's the best part at the end of the day.

As we wrap up our chat he is casually adding a few strokes to a doodle. I had him to sketch while talking to me, noting that it often frees up an artist's mind when they are seeking information. I asked what is the closest talent to his heart, assuming he would say music, but he shakes his head.

"I love all expression," Pinder says, and leaves it at that.

Walter Pinder will be performing once again in the Grand Rapids Opera's production of La Traviata in May


The Artists of Heartside Gallery and Studio is a monthly feature to highlight some of the wonderful people of the Heartside neighborhood. Visit , Facebook and our Flickr page to keep up with us, to learn about volunteering and other ways to get involved.


Alysha Lach is Interim Arts Coordinator for Heartside Gallery and Studio at Heartside Ministry, currently in place of Sarah Scott, and can be reached at [email protected].

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