UPDATE 5/15/2024: Max Gilles, Communications and Outreach Analyst for the city of Grand Rapids, reached out to me via email to provide an update on the City's plans for the boxes going forward. While these boxes typically hold ArtPrize exhibits while the event is going on, this summer the city has plans to fill the boxes with art through a DGRI-funded grand project.



I grew up in a rural area ~30 miles from Downtown Grand Rapids, so we rarely went Downtown. My dad worked in the city, so most of the time we'd go there to visit him or go to a Griffins game. It was always a sense of culture shock when we'd walk around these tall buildings when the tallest building in my sphere of existence was my grandparent's barn. Yeehaw.


Grand Rapids Griffins at Van Andel Arena
📷 Grand Rapids Griffins


However, the one thing I always looked forward to when I was downtown was walking past the Fulton-Ottawa parking ramp on Ottawa Ave. because the garage had these little boxes full of little, for lack of a better word, dioramas. If memory serves, these were usually used for advertising things like upcoming shows at the Civic Theatre and were unique to that building.


Outside of the Fulton/Ottawa Parking Ramp in 2011
The boxes in 2011. / Google Maps


But as the years went on, the rotation of the boxes happened less and less, and eventually, each box was left empty. The last year with anything in the boxes on Google Maps is 2019. Now, all 7 sit looking quite sad.


I went to the r/grandrapids subreddit to see if anyone had any information about the boxes, and while everyone seemed to know about as much as I did, one user whose account is now deleted had some interesting information. I have not validated this information, but still interesting:

That building used to be a jewelry store and that’s where they 'd put the public displays. Don’t ask why I know this. Or do. It’s cool. Also a pair of pistols from a notorious Michigan murder were displayed there about 100 years ago after he was caught.


Boxes on Fulton/Ottawa Parking now empty.
The boxes now, photo from 2020. / Google Maps


I imagine the City owns the boxes since they are connected to a City-owned parking garage, but really I do not know. We are such an art-centric town. It would be nice to see art back in there or find a way to promote small businesses or something. This area is, as it stands now, a missed opportunity. Let's get some color in those dull windows.


If you have any information about these that I did not find, send it my way tommy.mcneill@townsquaremedia.com


Places To Scream In Grand Rapids

Gallery Credit: Tommy McNeill

Vintage Grand Rapids: 1868-1920s


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