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Community updates: Thursday, Jan. 21

Grand Rapids Public Schools resumes in-person learning; Grand Rapids Public Museum opening Windows GR exhibit, highlighting local artists of color; and ArtPrize opening artist registration for 2021 event.
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Grand Rapids Public Museum visitors getting a sneak peek of its upcoming Windows GR exhibit.

Grand Rapids Public Museum visitors getting a sneak peek of its upcoming Windows GR exhibit. /Grand Rapids Public Musem

Grand Rapids Public Schools resumes in-person learning

For the first time since March 12, in-person classes are back in action for Grand Rapids Public Schools (GRPS).

On Tuesday, GRPS began its hybrid in-person learning model for students, which sees them in class at their schools for two days of the week and online the rest. For parents or guardians wishing for their students to continue learning online-only, the option remains available.

I am so proud of the students, parents, support staff, and school leaders for the smooth and seamless restart to in-person learning that took place on Tuesday,” GRPS Superintendent Leadriane Roby said in a Wednesday video update.I had the chance to visit a number of schools and the words just don't begin to describe the joy and excitement I experienced seeing our students and our staff as they were back in school.”

Students participating in the hybrid in-person model are split into two different weekly schedules to enable pandemic-related deep cleaning and proper physical distancing. Cohort A goes in-person on Mondays and Tuesdays, and Cohort B on Thursdays and Fridays. Wednesdays are reserved for the deeper cleanings.

The return of in-person learning for students comes as Kent County’s COVID-19 test positivity rate – the percentage of tests coming back positive – has continued to slightly decline. In mid-December, its weekly average was around 7.5 percent. In mid-January, it’s now around 6.6 percent.

Teachers and staff at GRPS are also now eligible to receive COVID-19 vaccinations, as supply at local health care providers allows.

GRPS’ Grab and Go Meal Sites are also still available for families to pick up meals, Roby said, Mondays through Fridays from 12:30-1:30pm. Exceptions are Blandford School, Museum Middle, Museum High, North Park Montessori, and Zoo School.


Grand Rapids Public Museum opening Windows GR exhibit, highlighting local artists of color

The Grand Rapids Public Museum (GRPM) is opening a new exhibit on Saturday, highlighting artwork created by local artists of color that promotes racial justice.

Called Windows GR, the exhibit features three large-scale art pieces that originated from the plywood that covered many windows of downtown Grand Rapids businesses over summer 2020. The three artists behind the pieces are Jalexia Stoutmyre, Guillermo Sotelo, and DeVante Barnes.

Grand Rapids’ May 30 peaceful protests-turned-riots against nationwide police brutality caused damage to downtown buildings and vehicles, which prompted a community-wide clean-up the next day. Part of this clean-up was boarding up windows – leading to a community art project that transformed them into painted imagery promoting racial justice and elevating Black voices.

The protests and riots that took place in Grand Rapids this past summer are part of the history of the city,” said Dale Robertson, the GRPM’s President and CEO. “It is the privilege and place of the GRPM to preserve the stories of our community.”

To that end, these local artists’ statements speak to us on the ideals of justice, of systemic racism, and on racial reckoning,” he added. “They represent and memorialize the community response to the destruction to our downtown which occurred at first light the following day.”

The artwork by the three featured artists was created specifically for the summer art project, also called Windows GR. Led by artists of color, up to 500 windows worth of funding were made available to participating artists to paint murals and messages highlighting the reasons behind protests over police killings of Black Americans. Lions & Rabbits commissioned those artists’ work, with the City of Grand Rapids, Downtown Grand Rapids Inc., and other partners providing support.

The Windows GR exhibit at the GRPM is now part of its Permanent Collection and will be on display on the museum’s second floor. It’s included in general admission, which is free for Kent County youth ages three to 17, as well as all two and under.

Backgrounds on the exhibit’s featured artists are available on the GRPM’s website.


ArtPrize opens artist registration for 2021 event on April 19

Artist and venue registration dates for ArtPrize 2021 have been announced, as the international art competition gears up for its return to downtown Grand Rapids this Sept.

Through its website, artists interested in participating may apply between April 19 and June 10. Venues interested in featuring artists’ works may apply between April 1 and April 15.

The return of ArtPrize this year comes after last year’s run was cancelled over pandemic-related concerns. Its fall run will be its first since organizers moved the annual event to an every-other-year schedule, originally to start in 2020.

ArtPrize 2021 takes place Sept. 16 through Oct. 3. $450,000 in grants and prizes will be awarded this year, with more details from organizers forthcoming.


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