2020 Newsmaker of the Year: Artist’s messages beautify city amid year of social unrest

Jasmine Bruce Courtesy Leandro Lara

CATEGORY: Arts & Entertainment

WINNER: Jasmine Bruce

ORGANIZATION: Freelance visual artist and illustrator

At the height of the social unrest over the summer in Grand Rapids, Jasmine Bruce used her artistic talent to raise awareness and bring her community together.

The freelance illustrator helped to lead four different art projects that featured artworks by herself and other Grand Rapids artists.

Bruce was a part of the Women’s Way Initiative, which highlighted four women leaders in Grand Rapids. She painted a mural of Harriet Wood Hill, who was the first African American police officer at the Grand Rapids Police Department. The mural of Hill is in the alley of Louis Street NW at the northwest corner of the Grand Rapids Police Department.

She also took her paintbrush and painted the “Break the Cycle” memorial mural, which features victims of police brutality, at the Lions and Rabbits Gallery on the north side of town. The mural featured the faces of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, Sandra Bland, Tamir Rice, Philando Castile, Botham Jean, Michael Brown, Renisha McBride, Atatiana Jefferson and Aiyana Jones.

Following the riots last summer that saw windows of businesses shattered, Bruce along with artists Asia Horne, Guillermo Sotelo, Kendall Redmon, Leandro Lara, Adrian Butler and Erik Lauchie led Windows GR. Some business owners gave the artists otherwise known as Element 7 permission to paint murals on their boarded-up windows. The artists put out a call for local creatives to join in on the project, which was supported by Lions and Rabbits and Downtown Grand Rapids Inc.

Over 300 boards covering damage were painted honoring African Americans, turning the ugly aftermath of rioting into something much more beautiful.

Bruce also led After Dark, which installed 35 murals across five Grand Rapids neighborhoods. In addition to being a freelance visual artist, Bruce was the summer illustration instructor at West Michigan Center for Arts + Technology and a programming coordinator for Lions and Rabbits Center for Arts.

Click here to read about the other winners of the 2020 Newsmakers of the Year.

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