Immigration, Refuge & Community are the Subject of Creston Mural

Photo by Nick Nortier
Photo by Nick Nortier

Inspired by birds and their migratory patterns, local artist Nick Nortier created a mural at Creston Market that serves as a metaphor for immigration, refuge and community.

The mural is a part of this year’s ArtPrize exhibition by the Urban Institute for Contemporary Arts (UICA). Known as “UICA Outside,” the exhibition is an expansion of the UICA’s public arts initiative to bring permanent and accessible artworks to Grand Rapids communities.

Nortier – who works under the name Old Growth Creative – is one of five artists participating in “UICA Outside.” Having collaborated with the UICA before, he was asked to create a permanent large-scale work in his own neighborhood.

“I’ve worked with UICA in the past on some projects, and they wanted to do some outdoor murals in different neighborhoods for ArtPrize,” Nortier said. “Since I live in the Creston neighborhood, they reached out to me to do a mural there.”

Photo by Stephani Fulks of Vibrant Minds Photography.
Photo by Stephani Fulks of Vibrant Minds Photography.

His mural features large birds flying against a vibrant sky and is inspired by the beauty of natural processes such as migration.

“I decided to paint birds as a sort of metaphor for migration and immigration because they’re both beautiful and natural things, and I wanted to try to depict that in a positive manner,” Nortier said.

Through the birds’ symbolism, Nortier wants viewers to consider the ways in which birds and humans are both migratory creatures in search of safety and community.

“We all deserve a safe place, so when you see another in distress, migrating for the sake of safety or community or refuge, welcome them home,” Nortier wrote in the artist statement. “We are all from the same flock and we all deserve a safe place to fly.”

Photo by Nick Nortier
Photo by Nick Nortier

This year is Nortier’s third time having artwork on display in ArtPrize, the first being a painting at the Pyramid Scheme and the second being a mural painted with a friend in the tunnel at Ah-Nab-Awen Park underneath the Gillette Bridge.

Since his focus as an artist is on murals, Nortier hopes to see more of them around town, citing The Detroit Mural Project and Color the Creek in Battle Creek as the kinds of events he would like to see take place here in Grand Rapids.

Fortunately, ArtPrize 10 seems to be encouraging an increase in permanent art installations.

“One thing I’m happy about is that with this year’s ArtPrize there’s been more permanent works in the form of murals,” Nortier said. “Something that always bums me out about ArtPrize is that all this art comes into town for a few weeks and then it’s gone. It’s nice to have more permanent works this time.”

ArtPrize 10 is happening now and goes through Oct. 7. Maps and directions to Nortier’s mural as well as the other “UICA Outside” projects are available at the UICA building downtown.

Be sure to visit or @oldgrowthcreative on Instagram to check out more of Nortier’s work.

*Main photo by Nick Nortier

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