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Grand Rapids, Michigan

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Grand Rapids in Michigan.

 

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Grand Rapids is a city in the U.S. state of Michigan. The city is located on the Grand River about 40 miles east of Lake Michigan. As of the 2010 census, the city population was 188,040. In 2010, the Grand Rapids metropolitan area had a population of 774,160 and a Combined Statistical Area, Grand Rapids-Muskegon-Holland, population of 1,321,557. It is the county seat of Kent County, Michigan, second largest city in Michigan (after Detroit), and the largest city in West Michigan. Grand Rapids is home to five of the world's leading office furniture companies and is nicknamed the "Furniture City". The city and surrounding communities are economically diverse, and contribute heavily to the health care, automotive, aviation, and consumer goods manufacturing industries, among others.

In 1969, Alexander Calder's abstract sculpture, La Grande Vitesse, which translates from French as "the great swiftness" or more loosely as "grand rapids," was installed downtown on the Vandenberg Plaza, the remodeled site of Grand Rapids City Hall. It became the very first federally funded work of public art in the United States funded by the National Endowment for the Arts. Since then, the site has hosted an annual Festival of the Arts on the plaza, now known informally as "Calder Plaza." During the first weekend in June, several blocks of downtown surrounding the Calder stabile in Vandenberg Plaza are closed to traffic. Festival features several stages with free live performances, food booths selling a variety of ethnic cuisine, art demonstrations and sales, and other arts-related activities. Organizers bill it as the largest all-volunteer arts festival in the United States because it is organized and managed entirely by volunteers. Vandenberg Plaza also hosts various ethnic festivals that take place throughout the summer season.

Summer concludes with Celebration on the Grand the weekend after Labor Day featuring free concerts,fireworks display and food booths. Celebration on the Grand is an event that celebrates life in the Grand River valley. Each October, the city celebrates the Polish heritage centered on the West side of town with Pulaski Days.

In Grand Rapids in 1973, the city hosted Sculpture off the Pedestal, an outdoor exhibition of public sculpture, which assembled 13 world-renowned artists, including Mark di Suvero, John Henry, Kenneth Snelson, Robert Morris, John Mason and Stephen Antonakos, in a single, citywide celebration. Sculpture off the Pedestal was a public/private partnership, which included financial support by the National Endowment for the Arts, educational support from the Michigan Council for the Arts and in-kind contributions from individuals, business and industry. Fund-raising events, volunteers and locals housing artists contributed to the public character of the event.

On November 10, 2004, the grand premier of the film The Polar Express was held in Grand Rapids, the movie's setting and home of the book's author Chris Van Allsburg, and its main character. The Meijer Gardens created a Polar Express display which was part of their larger Christmas Around the World exhibit.

In mid-2004, the Grand Rapids Art Museum (GRAM) began construction on a new, larger building for its art museum collection, which opened in October, 2007 at 101 Monroe Center NW. The new building site faces downtown's Ecliptic by Maya Lin at Rosa Parks Circle. The Museum was completed in 2007 and became the first newly built art museum to achieve gold-level, LEED certification by the U.S. Green Building Council.

The first ArtPrize, the world's largest art competition completely voted on by the public, took place in Grand Rapids from September 23 through October 10, 2009. This event was founded by Rick DeVos, grandson of Amway Corp. co-founder Richard DeVos, who offered $449,000 in cash prizes. 1,262 artists exhibited their work for two weeks, with a total of 334,219 votes cast. First prize, including a $250,000 cash prize, went to Brooklyn painter Ran Ortner.[19] The second event, ArtPrize 2010, was held September 22 through October 10, 2010 with work by 1,713 artists on display. The first prize was awarded to Grand Rapids artist Chris LaPorte.

Tourism

Grand Rapids is the home of John Ball Park, Belknap Hill, and the Gerald R. Ford Museum, the final resting place of the 38th President of the United States. Significant buildings in the downtown include the DeVos Place Convention Center, Van Andel Arena, the Amway Grand Plaza Hotel, and now the JW Marriott Hotel. The Urban Institute for Contemporary Arts is located downtown, and houses art exhibits, a movie theater, and the urban clay studio.

Along the Grand River are symbolic burial mounds which were used by the Hopewell tribe, a fish ladder, and a riverwalk.

Grand Rapids is also home to the Van Andel Museum Center. Founded in 1854, it is among the oldest history museums in the United States. The museum's sites currently include the main site constructed in 1994 on the west bank of the Grand River (home to the Roger B. Chaffee Planetarium, the Voigt House Victorian Museum, and the City Archives and Records Center, which was the site of the museum and planetarium prior to 1994). The museum has, in the past few years, played host to a handful of notable exhibitions, including the Dead Sea Scrolls, and The Quest for Immortality: the Treasures of Ancient Egypt. The museum is set up as a non-profit institution owned and managed by the Public Museum of Grand Rapids Foundation.

Heritage Hill, a neighborhood directly east of downtown is one of the largest urban historic districts in the country. It was the first "neighborhood" of Grand Rapids and its 1,300 homes date from 1848 and represent over 60 architectural styles. Of particular significance is the Meyer May House, a prairie-style home designed by Frank Lloyd Wright in 1908. It was commissioned by local merchant Meyer May who operated a men's clothing store (May's of Michigan). The house is now owned and operated by Steelcase Corporation. Steelcase manufactured furniture for the Johnson Wax Building in Racine, WI, which was designed by Wright. Because of those ties, Steelcase purchased and restored the property in the 1980s. The restoration has been heralded as one of the most accurate and complete of any Wright restoration. The home is used by Steelcase for special events and open to the public for tours.

Grand Rapids is home to myriad theatres and stages, including the newly-reconstructed Civic Theatre (also known as the Meijer Majestic), the city's largest theatre DeVos hall, and the convertible Van Andel Arena. Further east of downtown is the historic Wealthy Theatre. The first megaplex in the United States is also located in Grand Rapids, Studio 28, which reopened in 1988 with a seating capacity of 6,000. The theater ceased operations on November 23, 2008. The Grand Rapids company also owns many theaters around West Michigan.

In Grand Rapids Township, the Frederik Meijer Gardens and Sculpture Park combine 125 acres (1 km2) of world-class botanical gardens and artwork from such sculptors as Mark di Suvero, Alexander Calder, Edgar Degas, and Auguste Rodin. The Gardens' amphitheatre plays host to numerous concerts each summer, featuring such acts as Jonny Lang, The Pointer Sisters, Lyle Lovett, Cowboy Junkies, and B.B. King. The Gardens were mentioned in Patricia Schultz's book 1,000 Places to See Before You Die.

Entertainment and performing arts

Grand Rapids has a number of popular concert venues in which a large assortment of bands have performed, including the Orbit Room, the Mixtape Cafe, the DAAC, the Intersection, DeVos Hall, the Van Andel Arena, the Royce Auditorium, the Forest Hills Fine Arts Center, and the Deltaplex.

The Great Lakes Chorus of Barbershop Singers is one of the oldest chapters in the Barbershop Harmony Society formally known as the Society for the Preservation and Encouragement of Barbershop Quartet Singing in America (SPEBSQSA). The Grand Rapids chapter organized in November 1939.

Grand Rapids Ballet Company was founded in 1971 and remains as Michigan's only professional ballet company. They are currently located on Ellsworth Avenue in the Heartside neighborhood, where it moved in 2000. In 2007, they expanded their facility by adding the LEED-certified Peter Wege Theater.

Opera Grand Rapids, founded in 1966, is the state's longest running professional company. In February 2010, they moved into a new facility in the Fulton Heights neighborhood.

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