La Diatribe and GRPM organize panel to discuss ‘Why’ – Grand Valley Lanthorn


The Diatribe, a group from Grand Rapids that uses the performing arts to encourage younger generations to inspire change in their communities, recently partnered with the Grand Rapids Public Museum (GRPM) to host a panel discussion on Project 49507 .

The panel was called “The Why” and was held on November 17th at the Center for Community Transformation in Grand Rapids.

G Foster is Co-Founder, Teaching Artist and Donor Experience Manager at The Diatribe, and said Project 49507 was born in response to the deaths of Breonna Taylor and George Floyd.

When artists from the Grand Rapids community were asked to paint closed windows of businesses during the Black Lives Matter protests, Foster said there were restrictions on what could and couldn’t be painted.

The goal of Project 49507, he said, was to open the door to creating works of art without specific guidelines.

“We are tired of being watched,” Foster said. “We just wanted to do a shameless art project. “

He said that during the height of COVID-19, in partnership with the Garfield Park Neighborhoods Association, The Diatribe discovered that many people in ZIP code 49507 were running out of basic necessities.

Whether a person needed someone to go to the grocery store for them or to help pay their bills because they were fired, The Diatribe gathered emails and phone numbers and were able to raise nearly $ 30,000 to help community members.

Thanks to this, the idea of ​​embellishing and celebrating the community with works of art was born.

“We wanted to turn 49507 into a multicultural art district,” said Foster. “We want people to be proud of where they are at and where they are from and this is just one step.”

To create murals that best reflect the community in which they would reside, The Diatribe held community listening sessions in these neighborhoods and gathered feedback on the artwork from those who lived there.

La Diatribe had originally planned to do just one mural, but received enough funds for seven thanks to support from individual and local donors.

The large-scale murals are now complete and were created by locals of color on important buildings.

“It’s so crazy how it all happened,” Foster said. “It was born out of a desire to raise the voice of brown and black residents and inspire them to claim space.”

The “Why” panel was organized to further discuss the impact of these murals on the community and how they encourage residents.

The panel consisted of muralists, members of The Diatribe, including the Executive Director, Project Manager of Project 49507 and the Executive Director of the Garfield Park Neighborhoods Association.

“(The panel) was the community as well as the artists who could talk about the impact of this great opportunity,” said Foster. “I feel like by listening to your community you can put things into action and that’s what we hope this panel was able to do is be the start of action efforts. Be the change we want to see in the community.

Christie Bender, director of marketing and customer service at GRPM, said the museum had partnered with The Diatribe to organize the panel to help develop their current series, “GR Stories.”

“’GR Stories’ is a relatively new series that the museum is organizing with community partners to share a deeper understanding of diverse cultures and origins, celebrating the diversity and richness of Grand Rapids history and culture,” said said Bender.

Bender said the museum’s goal with the project is to bring together and immortalize the voices of the community in the museum’s collection.

“Through the programming of GR Stories, the museum, in partnership with community groups, is creating a way to present authentic stories and local voices,” said Bender. “We were hoping to see community members participate in person or online to learn and understand each other better. By collecting these community stores and artifacts and adding them to the GRPM’s permanent collection, the authentic history of our community will be preserved and shared with future generations.

Foster said that by hearing and preserving those voices, he hopes everyone in the community will take a moment to listen and create change.

“I just hope everyone has a chance to listen,” Foster said. “No change happens without dialogue and action, so it’s definitely a step in the right direction to listen,” said Foster.

La Diatribe has funding and plans to create a new mural next year to continue project 49507.


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