Even before Grand Rapids Community Foundation moved into its new home at Grandville and Oakes, a mural by Ed Wong-Ligda was in the plans. In the lobby, near the fireplace, a large open space was reserved for this commissioned painting which will be 6x10 feet. Work began with Ed and his artist’s assistants in the summer of 2008 with visits to the building and conversations about Grand Rapids Community Foundation and the work it did. Ed and his assistants spent hours talking with staff, reading materials and interviewing donors and grantees. One of the features that attracted us to Ed’s work is that he’s very good at showing a diversity of people-age, gender, ethnicity and overall facial and body characteristics. We also appreciated his imaginative allegorical skills. His literal figures and objects stand for abstract ideas or deeper symbols.
Ed and his assistants Kaylee Cornfield and Lindy Patterson presented four concepts for the mural; the one created by Kaylee was selected. It is a neighborhood garden full of people and activity. “This metaphor reinforces the concept that the Community Foundation encourages everyone in Grand Rapids to plant the seeds for a brighter, friendlier tomorrow,” said Kaylee. The more advanced sketches presented the garden in a multi-seasonal format; on the right the viewer can see the garden is being prepared (gifts to the Community Foundation), in the center of the painting vegetable plants are growing (growth of the endowment) and at left, the harvest or grantmaking is shown. The painting also shows people cutting down stalks of corn for compost, preparing the garden for the next year.
Ed does his paintings from photographs which he takes of models and at places he visits. The garden is based loosely on the community garden in the Hillcrest neighborhood. In the background the viewer will see the hint of a skyline of Grand Rapids. Central to the painting is the Community Foundation’s founder Lee M. Hutchins and a large tree. Trees are often used as symbols for philanthropy. Lee is shown giving (or receiving) flowers from a young girl. The flowers are native to West Michigan and other flowers in the painting are medicinal plants symbolic of Lee’s career in the pharmaceutical business.
Ed is a professor at Grand Valley State University and his artwork can be seen at the Public Museum of Grand Rapids, Grand Valley State University, Appalachian State University and in private collections.
The painting is expected to be completed in early 2010.