Artists create handcrafted birdhouses for parks fundraiser

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Friends of Grand Rapids Parks is auctioning off custom birdhouses made by local leaders and artists to benefit the region’s parks, trees and greenspaces.

The nonprofit Friends of Grand Rapids Parks (Friends) engaged 15 artists, including Paul Collins and Jason Quigno, as well as public figures such as Mayor Rosalynn Bliss and WOOD-TV’s Rachael Ruiz, in its second annual Birdhouse Project Auction. Funds raised through the sale of these birdhouses will help support Friends’ mission to “empower people to cultivate vibrant parks, trees and green spaces” in the Grand Rapids community.

The auction is now live online. Bidding for each birdhouse began at $100.

The collection features work by the following artists and community leaders: Collins, Quigno, Bliss, Ruiz, Tommy Allen, Sarah Jean Anderson, Friends’ founding executive director Steve Faber, Claire Fisher, Alynn Guerra, Becky Pobst, Sophie Rodriguez, David Specht and Samantha Suarez, Jamari Taylor, Dayna Walton and Katherine Williams.

The artists and public figures said they are lending their time and talents to raise funds for Grand Rapids’ parks because of their deep connections to these public spaces.

“Our parks and public spaces are critical in creating a community where people can enjoy nature and connect with one another,” Bliss said. “(They) are places where we can pause during a difficult day and relax, gather for outside music or movies, where children gather to play, families have picnics and celebrations, and memories can be created.”

Anderson said she has a park as an extension of her home.

“I live next to Richmond Park and walk my dog, Polka, around the trails every day,” she said. “I love feeling like I have my own little nature retreat every morning, right in the middle of our bustling city.”

Anderson has been a visual artist and performer in Grand Rapids for 20 years and is the artist behind the mural, “Robots Laughing With You (Not At You),” on the corner of Leonard and Seward in Grand Rapids’ West Side neighborhood.

Friends said it is grateful to have a contribution from a well-known artist such as Collins, who was named one of the top 20 most eminent figure painters in America by Watson-Guptill Publications and was the first artist of color to paint a sitting president, President Gerald R. Ford.

The nonprofit said no two birdhouses in the auction are alike, as evidenced by Anishinaabe artist and stoneworker Quigno’s approach.

“When I create, I am always pushing myself, my designs and the limits of the stone to bring out a fluid and balanced form, and to create artwork that is graceful, delicate and has a sense of movement,” Quigno said. He took the same approach when crafting a birdhouse, and Friends said the result was “amazing.”

Ruiz said she wanted her birdhouse — created with the help of her two daughters — to capture the feeling of living in nature, adding moss to the roofing and stones to the outside to make it look natural. Its ash gray colors make the house blend in with the leaves and bark of a tree.

A muralist and model, Rodriguez took the vibrant colors used in her contributions to the 2020 Grand Rapids skate park project and brought them to her birdhouse in abstract shapes to attract the eyes of birds as well as humans.

Friends said funds raised through the Birdhouse Project Auction will allow it to create pathways for all community members to explore the outdoors; plant trees in neighborhoods with the lowest canopy cover; and host free, family-friendly park events in every ward of the city.

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