GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — Pride month may be drawing to a close, but Rainbow Road will live on in Grand Rapids. The permanent street mural debuted on Sheldon Avenue NE between Fulton and Library streets on Sunday, commemorating Pride Month and the 50th anniversary of the 1969 Stonewall riots.
"Just the idea that that happened and at that point in 50 years, now we're being able to do something like this—obviously we're moving in the right direction," artist Joey Salamon said.
The mural sits next to the Apartment Lounge, Michigan's oldest, consistently operating LGBTQ bar.
"It's amazing that the Rainbow flag actually runs in front of us and then it moves into the future of all of us," said Bobby J, the owner of Apartment Lounge.
Salamon, a former Grand Rapids resident and Grand Valley State University alum, used 40 gallons of red, yellow, blue, white and black paint to cover approximately 7,000 square feet of street-space. Downtown Grand Rapids, Inc (DGRI) said that makes it the most extensive street mural to date in the City of Grand Rapids.
The project was funded by the Downtown Development Authority, which is managed by DGRI.
Bobby J said plans for a visual LGBTQ representation in the city started around six years ago with an initial plan to have three rainbow cross walks, but there were safety issues with reflective paint.
"They said we couldn't do that. It wasn't a possibility and then they came up with this amazing plan for a work of art that will be there forever," he explained.
Dozens of LGBTQ members and allies celebrated the ribbon cutting, but Salamon said the fight for equality and acceptance isn't over.
"I had a lot of friends and family reaching out of the process just asking, 'Are you safe? Are things good? Is everyone acting cool?'...If people, especially in that amount of people, reaching out feel the need to do that, then that's the reason why this mural exists," he explained.
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