Colorful collage of murals nearing completion by Grand Rapids overpass

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GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. -- Downtown Grand Rapids is home to a handful of murals adorned on the side of buildings. The Urban Institute for Contemporary Arts (UICA) hopes to liven up the city even more with the artwork. There's a new project in the works on Division Avenue near the I-196 overpass on a concrete wall.

It's not hard to miss the artwork. Nick Nortier and two other artists are painting a collage of murals as part of the "Exit Space Project" which is spearheaded by the UICA.

"Art livens up the place. It makes it a lot less boring to look at, especially on a day like today when it's all cloudy and gray. It's great to have a big splash of color," Nortier said.

UICA curator Heather Duffy said the project started within the building. A mural painted near the building's exit door off Fulton makes use of an 'underutilized space'. So the organization decided to expand the project outside to public areas, like blank walls and eventually construction sites, with the city's blessing.

"I think murals are a great way to showcase artists voices to represent ideas and personality and identity to communities," she said.

Duffy said three artists were selected from a pool of applicants. She said funding for the projects came from Downtown Grand Rapids Inc., crowdfunding of more than $10,000 and the Michigan Economic Development Corporation matched that amount. The organization said the money will help artists with basic needs like transportation, meals and lodging as they complete their pieces.

Notier said, "I did a boat because my grandfather used to paint boats, and I really like it. I think its a fun piece, and it's kind of representative of sailing through and getting through what you need to get through."

Duffy said, "Once we started looking for walls and we knew what a successful wall would be, it's hard to be here or in any city where I don't see a certain wall and think, 'oh that needs a mural.'"

She added, "So now I can't look at a wall and not see a future mural."

Notier expects to have the mural completed by Monday.