The Bridge GR: Bringing Together the Community


Blue Bridge Downtown GR After Dark // Courtesy to Pinterest

Chavala Ymker

Three months ago, with the canceling of ArtPrize, the future of art in the Grand Rapids (GR) community was unclear. But the innovative minds at the Grand Rapids chamber of commerce and partners in the City, Experience Grand Rapids, and Downtown Grand Rapids Inc. joined together to create a new umbrella event called Bridge GR. 

Running from August 28 through October 3, events include pop-up concerts with Circle Theatre and several festivals such as the Asian Pacific festival, Fiesta Mexicana, and A Glimpse of Africa. 

Richard App–Retail, Retention & Attraction Specialist at the Chamber–came up with the name. “(It) represents the many rivers and bridges in Grand Rapids, but also the bridge between canceled events and the absence of ArtPrize.” 

The Bridge GR’s four pillars are art, community, culture, and music. While the crowds of ArtPrize couldn’t be sustained safely, the organizers felt that it was important to continue supporting local artists and businesses. 

In this unique time, the hope is that the Bridge will not only bring business to downtown GR and provide people with a way to experience the community in a time of social distancing but that it will be used to continue the conversations about social justice and equity. 

As the event developed, the Bridge GR reached out to local organizations that had formerly applied to be a part of ArtPrize, were already hosting reimagined events, and any groups that might support the event’s four pillars. 

Organizations that were interested, applied to the Bridge with extensive plans that involved how the event would be held safely.  

The Open Door Pillowcase Project, hosted by Degage Ministries, is one of the organizations that had planned to be a part of ArtPrize but reapplied to the Bridge. Over the summer, they collected 4,700 pillowcases, each representing a woman supported over the nearly twenty years of operation. 

When the exhibit opens on September 10, about 3,000-3,500 pillowcases will be displayed across the Gillett Bridge and outside the DeVos Center. Attendees will be encouraged to decorate a pillowcase onsite that will be added to the display. 

Brooke Jevicks, Director of Development at Degage Ministries, wants to provide visitors with a sense of community that they have lacked throughout the pandemic and help them realize there are women who have always struggled with those feelings. “What’s beautiful, is that people are looking for new ways to connect.” 

App agrees, “(The Bridge) showcases the fabric of the city of GR as a whole coming together to put on this event.” 

The 17th annual Mayor’s Grand River Cleanup, held from September 12-19, will be a part of the Bridge this year. Kent County residents are encouraged to sign up until September 16 to receive cleanup materials. 

Later in the month, on September 26, chalk artists will be creating masterpieces on the Blue Bridge. The city will be divided into zones where attendees can draw their own chalk art. Rosa Parks Circle will host music and food trucks. 

Begun last year, After Dark GR continues as a part of the Bridge. It’s a city-wide scavenger hunt that kicks off on September 12 from 11 a.m.-6 p.m. with games and music across the city, and continues through November 1. The event supports local artists who will be installing new murals throughout September. Learn more at

All events are limited to 100 people, those from different households must maintain 6 feet of distance, and mask-wearing is required when not able to social distance and encouraged at all times. More events can be found at

In only three months, a dynamic and exciting event has been created that will once again bring the Grand Rapids community together around art. “The Bridge is a testament to optimism and resilience. During a difficult time we celebrate community and do it safely,” App said.