An economic development organization has honored an artist for his local impact.
Grand Rapids-based Local First has announced Reb Roberts, a local folk artist, as the recipient of the 2018 Guy Bazzani Local Legacy Award.
The award recognizes a business or individual who has demonstrated unceasing commitment to the Local First mission.
“Reb has contributed his art and talents to Local First in countless ways throughout our history, from designing Street Party posters to providing free art projects for children at Local First events,” said Elissa Hillary, president, Local First.
“Reb is a living example of our mission and what it means to support local. On behalf of the Local First Board of Directors, we are honored to recognize Reb and to celebrate everything he has done to use art as a force for good in our community.”
For almost 20 years, Roberts worked out of his former studio on Division Avenue, Sanctuary Folk Art Gallery, anchoring an artist hub in a commercial area that was once consistently vacant.
Local First said Division Avenue is filled with small businesses, nonprofits and art galleries and continues to support local artists, thanks in part to Roberts’ commitment to the area.
“Reb has created some of the most iconic murals and street art in Grand Rapids,” Grand Rapids Mayor Rosalynn Bliss. “More than that, he has become a pillar by serving our community and bringing out the best in us for decades. We are thankful for his work and his commitment to supporting local art in our community — and for making it part of who we are as a city today.”
Some of his pieces include murals throughout downtown Grand Rapids, including a fish mural between Charles and Henry streets along Wealthy Street, and painted traffic boxes around town.
“Public art is an essential part of creating vibrant neighborhoods and sparking change throughout communities, and it has the power to bring people, businesses, nonprofits and the entire city together,” Roberts said. “I am grateful for the overwhelming support from Local First, the City of Grand Rapids and the people who support my art. Working together, our community can continue to drive positive change through art and by supporting our local artists.”