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    Community Relations Commission

    The City’s Community Relations Commission established the Rosa Parks Sculpture Committee in January 2008.The Rosa Parks Sculpture Committee and the Community Relations Commission commissioned sculptor Ed Dwight of Denver, CO to design a new public art piece of Rosa Parks for installation around the perimeter of Rosa Parks Circle in Grand Rapids, Michigan by September 30, 2010.

    Photograph by Keepsake Studios. 


    For more than 150 years the space occupied by Rosa Parks Circle has been a vital part of Grand Rapids and has been associated as being the heart of the city – first as Grab Corners, later as Campau Square and now as Rosa Parks Circle. The 3.5-acre park is situated on a triangular piece of land and was designed by artist and architect Maya Lin, who is renowned for designing the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C. Her work entitled “Ecliptic” was inspired by the Grand River and her vision for the park was for it to serve as a “green respite in the heart of the city.”

    City Commissioners named the park Rosa Parks Circle and it was dedicated in September 2001. While Rosa Parks Circle bears the name of the civil rights hero, the artistic design of the park does not specifically commemorate her life or bear her likeness. An etched plaque provides some historical and commemorative information about Rosa Parks. However, in addition to this plaque, a public art piece bearing Rosa Parks’ likeness will be commissioned and designed for placement in close proximity to the park. Thus, Rosa Parks will be honored in more than name.

    Rosa Parks, known as the mother of the Civil Rights Movement for her refusal to surrender her seat to a white man on a Montgomery, Alabama city bus died October 24, 2005, at the age of 92. Her action on December 1, 1955, sparked a 381-day boycott of the bus system led by the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.

    In 1999, Rosa Parks was presented with a Congressional Gold Medal, the highest national honor that a civilian can receive. In making the presentation, President Clinton stated “We must never ever, when this ceremony is over, forget about the power of ordinary people to stand in the fire for the cause of human dignity,” Rosa Parks’ legacy of “ordinariness”, quiet strength and firm stand for that which is just in America has relevance for us all. A park bearing her name and a statute bearing her likeness will serve to remind us that we too must be tireless and diligent in ensuring that there is opportunity and justice for all citizens.


    The Rosa Parks Sculpture Project will have long-lasting impact for the residents of Grand Rapids. It will create opportunities for visitors, residents and especially our youth, to learn about the life of Rosa Parks and the causes she stood for. It will instill a sense of pride that is reflective of the diversity of Grand Rapids. It will attract more visitors to the community as it joins the city’s public art landscape. Moreover, it will provide a permanent tribute to the “Mother of the Civil Rights Movement” in the heart of the Grand Rapids community.

    Placement of this sculpture will complete a journey that began in 2001 with the dedication of Rosa Parks Circle. The completion of this project will achieve the following outcomes:

    Education: The Rosa Park Sculpture will create opportunities for visitors and residents to learn about the life of Rosa Parks and the causes she stood for.

    Civic Pride: The Rosa Parks Sculpture will instill a sense of pride that is reflective of the diversity of Grand Rapids.

    Cultural Tourism: The Rosa Parks Sculpture will attract more visitors to the park as it joins the city’s public art landscape.

    Commemorative Booklet: Click here to view a copy of the Commemorative Booklet. 

     The Grand Rapids Community Relations Commission in collaboration with the Rosa Parks Sculpture Education Committee is pleased to present the 2014 Rosa Parks Essay Contest.  This contest is open to middle and high school students in Kent County.  Please click here for complete details.



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