In 2021, Downtown Grand Rapids Inc. approached ACT in hopes our team could create a mural representing the many people with disabilities we serve and who call West Michigan home. Through many collaborative efforts, hard work, and a few challenges along the way – we finished the mural at Canal Street Park in Spring 2022.
The mural was designed by local artist and ACT instructor Derrick Hollowell, then painted by a small army of talented individuals from our network. Derrick used inspiration from his experience working with ACT’s constituents with disabilities for the past decade and from dozens of photographs of participant artwork and headshots to design the mural.
ACT’s collaborative mural, titled "We Belong," represents the individuals with disabilities who are part of our community. The mural brings perspectives from a diverse range of disabilities and abilities.
The mural is located within Canal Park in Grand Rapids. For directions, use address: 1045 Monroe NW
The location gives this message a prominent, deserving home in downtown, is viewable from multiple vantage points with paved and accessible surfaces, and promotes more foot traffic in the Monroe North neighborhood.
Born in Grand Rapids, Derrick was raised by his mother and maternal grandparents, Reverend & Mrs. Howard Hollowell. As a child, he split his interests between sports and art. When Derrick was ten years old, a family member noticed a slight limp which led to numerous medical visits, exams, and misdiagnoses, and a specific medical conclusion was never determined. After unsuccessful attempts at rehabilitation, Derrick continued his education. He graduated class president from Creston High School and went on to Grand Valley College to work towards a Bachelor of Fine Arts. He has opened and operated a series of innovative, storefront and warehouse galleries, and currently resides in one of the live/work art spaces of the Avenue of the Arts. Recently, Derrick has placed original art in The Mary Free Bed Rehabilitation Hospital Guild Collection and an extensive collection of jazz themed paintings at HopCat in Grand Rapids.
Art Slime and Art Splash
Serenade for The City
The panel that faces southwest towards the river shows a beach scene with a child displaying his oversized “catch,” and a lively game of wheelchair volleyball. The slogan “We Belong” is highlighted along the horizon and mirrored in the water. It is meant to accentuate the feeling of water recreation and enjoyment along the riverfront, a central feature of Grand Rapids + West Michigan.
Seen when heading south on Monroe, this shows a group of artists and musicians gleefully performing their original tune, “We Belong.” There is a bright pink piano, bongos with bright red hearts, a guitar player, a dancer, and a water themed musical staff with rhythmic notes and symbols. It is meant to serenade viewers with a feeling of harmony and joy as they enter the riverwalk section of Downtown GR. The staves (horizontal lines of sheet music) represent the Grand River itself.
The image on the left-side panel of the garage doors shows three people joyfully exploring bright paint colors with their hands. The image of Grand Rapids' most well known art landmark, “La Grande Vitesse/The Calder” is incorporated into the design, along with a river theme that is consistent with the mural. It is meant to illustrate the tactile nature of creativity + ability.
The image on the right-side panel of the garage doors shows two students, one creating art with his multicolored paint sprayer, and another proudly displaying his splash art! The background is an array of colored hearts, smiley faces, and other accents which were drawn by ACT students. The words “We Belong” are spelled out in American Sign Language. This panel depicts the collaborative process of making art.