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Community updates: Thursday, May 13

City of Grand Rapids receives $75K grant for local Indigenous art along Grand River; ArtPrize shifts away from traditional public vote for 2021 event; and qualifying households now eligible for federally-funded discounts on internet service.
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Grand River meets Ah-Nab-Awen Park in downtown Grand Rapids.

Grand River meets Ah-Nab-Awen Park in downtown Grand Rapids. /City of Grand Rapids Parks and Recreation

City of Grand Rapids receives $75K grant for local Indigenous art along Grand River

The City of Grand Rapids has been awarded a $75,000 Our Town grant to bring permanent art and historical markers of original Indigenous people to the city’s Grand River trails, it announced Thursday.

Funded through the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), the placemaking effort will be part of Grand Rapids’ larger River for All” project, which aims to restore and revitalize the Grand River and its riverfront trails, spanning from Riverside Park to Millennium Park.

The Our Town grant will help fund a series of interpretive monuments along the Grand River trails and a feature sculpture of Anishinaabe art, located at the geographic and cultural center of the river restoration, Ah-Nab-Awen Park.

The total project is estimated at $280,000, according to the City of Grand Rapids., and the balance will be raised through a future public fundraising campaign.

Local Indigenous tribes will be directly involved in the project to create and share their own narrative, deciding how to express that through the monuments and public art. Anishinaabe Circle and the Grand River Band of Ottawa Indians have been invited by the city to take the leadership role in this effort, coordinating with tribal members and elders from the Grand Rapids community.

Madalene BigBear, Chairperson for Anishinaabe Circle, expressed support on behalf of the group for the inclusion of art along the Grand River made or curated by Grand Rapids’ original Indigenous residents.

“Working together to re-create spaces for Native American people in the city strengthens the cultural inclusivity that has been a central component in Awashtenung always,” said BigBear. “We embrace being included and look forward to more of these synergistic relationships in our community. Wewene.”

The project will be completed over the next two years in four phases, beginning with capacity-building and engagement work this summer and fall, the City of Grand Rapids said in a Thursday statement.

The city’s award is one of seven granted to Grand Rapids organizations as part of the NEA’s spring 2021 grants. The Our Town grant supports projects that “integrate arts, culture, and design activities into efforts that strengthen communities by advancing local economic, physical, and/or social outcomes,” according to the NEA.


ArtPrize shifts away from traditional public vote for 2021 event

ArtPrize is adopting a new prize format for its 2021 event this fall, giving visitors the opportunity to award the prizes directly to participating artists, it announced last week.

Shifting away from the traditional public vote as one of its main formats for awarding artists, the Grand Rapids-based art competition aims to expand the number of artists able to take home a portion of the $250,000 in prizes. More details about the new format will be announced “in the coming weeks,” it said in a May 3 statement.

Juried awards, the other main prize format part of ArtPrize in years past, will return for 2021.

This year’s ArtPrize takes place throughout downtown Grand Rapids from Sept. 16 through Oct. 3, and marks its first run since 2018. The competition had moved to an every-other-year schedule to begin in 2020, until its pandemic-related cancellation.

New additions to this year’s competition include an auction platform to help ArtPrize 2021 artists find buyers for their work, backed by an education campaign to encourage visitors to buy art. $200,000 in grants is also available to fund outdoor exhibitions featuring work by artists from underrepresented communities. An enhanced digital map will also be released.

“ArtPrize is and has been so many things to so many people,” Jaenell Woods, ArtPrize’s Senior Communications Manager, said. “In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, we believe it stands as a beacon of hope – for the possibility of connection, energy, excitement, activity, gathering safely, collective expression, community support, revival.”

Updates on ArtPrize 2021’s voting format will be available through its website.


Qualifying households now eligible for federally-funded discounts on internet service

Residents across Grand Rapids and the U.S. who meet income eligibility requirements or have been financially impacted by COVID-19 are now able to receive federal assistance for home internet connections and internet-enabled devices.

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) announced the start to its Emergency Broadband Benefit program on Wednesday, which was approved by Congress. Through the program, eligible consumers may receive a $50 monthly discount on their broadband bill, or $75 a month for eligible consumers living on qualifying tribal lands.

The benefit program also provides a one-time device discount of up to $100 for a laptop or desktop computer, or tablet purchased through an eligible provider. Consumers receiving the discount are required to make a co-payment of more than $10 and less than $50.

"As the COVID-19 pandemic has made clear, having high-speed internet access at home isn't a luxury, but a necessity so that people have access to critical services, such as remote learning and telemedicine, and maintain the ability to stay in contact with family and friends during a difficult and isolating time," Michigan Public Service Commissioner Tremaine Phillips said.

$3.2 billion will be made available for the Emergency Broadband Benefit program, according to the FCC. The program will continue until the funds run out or six months after U.S. Department of Health and Human Services declares an end to the pandemic.

According to the Michigan Public Service Commission, Michigan currently lags national averages for households connected to high-speed internet, because of affordability and lack of access in rural areas. The commission cites 1.25 million Michigan households lacking a permanent fixed broadband connection.

Among criteria that qualifies Michiganders for the internet and device discounts is receiving public assistance benefits through the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services. Other criteria, and details about applying for the program, are available at


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