Community flocks to weekend event in East Hills, Grand Rapids MI
Rainy weather did not dampen the enthusiasm for our community event and pop-up art show last weekend on the premises of what will become a vibrant art center at 1009 Hermitage St SE in the East Hills neighborhood of Grand Rapids.
Two hundred and fifty members of the community attended to find out more about the plans to transform this beautiful church constructed in 1875. They also witnessed me “unveiling” of my original painting of the church, depicting how it will look as an art center when fully restored. I was honored to present the painting to Maureen Kirkwood, the chairman of the recently formed non-profit Hermitage at Diamond which will be overseeing fund-raising for the project. I donated my painting to show my support for the project and help with the fund-raising efforts.
The pop-up art show consisted of a display by 40 of my paintings of historic homes in the greater Grand Rapids area as well as the beautiful works of established Grand Rapids artists, Elaine Dalcher and Cathy Marashi. I would like to take this opportunity to thank them for their support and participation.
It has been a joy to be involved in this community historic preservation project. It aligns with my historic preservation award which I established in 2013 in order to give back to those setting a stellar example of saving and restoring old buildings rather than see them torn down. This is also the message of my coffee table book which I released a few weeks ago. The book includes paintings of home and historic buildings in every state across the country and my goal is to raise awareness nationally about the importance of historic preservation.
Carol Moore, project manager for the church restoration and long-time preservationist in the Grand Rapids area, welcomed the crowd. Maureen Kirkland and board member Jennifer Williams spoke, followed by me and the painting unveiling and presentation to the board of Hermitage at Diamond.
Tours of the church were available and children had the chance to participate in an art project set up for the occasion.
Every Building with History has a Story. . .
The church at 1009 Hermitage is an imposing structure with stunning stained glass windows and a towering steeple. It was constructed by the Third Reformed Church and reflects the cultural history of Grand Rapids, serving the Dutch immigrant population living in the “Brikyaat,” or brickyard, neighborhood. Services were conducted primarily in Dutch until 1944. The original building was expanded several times within the first decade, and in 1900 a new parish house was built next door to replace an older building. This home remains and will be part of the new art center.
In the late 1960s, Third Reformed Church moved to a new facility and sold the Hermitage property to the Church of God in Christ. Recognizing the historic significance of the church, the Church of God in Christ achieved inclusion of the church in the National Register of Historic Places.
The church was again sold in 1995, however the new owners found the costs associated with maintaining the 4,000-square-foot deteriorating structure beyond its means. Finally the building was condemned. Carol Moore and Bill Roelofs purchased the building in 2017.
Despite its deteriorated condition, Moore and Roelofs were drawn to the historic architectural features that includes a 400-seat sanctuary with a 60-seat balcony, a soaring embossed tin ceiling, and notable acoustic properties. The facility also includes a large open space and institutional kitchen as well as additional spaces, including the attached residential structure, for other uses.
Moore and Roelofs were motivated to acquire the structure not only for its historic value but also by their vision for a neighborhood-oriented adaptive reuse, creating a vehicle for strengthening community through diverse arts and cultural offerings. For project updates go to www.hermitage-at-diamond.org
I would like to give special thanks to Carol Moore, Elaine Dalcher and Cathy Marashi for helping to organize this event and making it such a special community gathering.