The Arts & Chocolate: What Could be Better?

Rowan Marshall posed next to one of her works of art displayed inside the Grandville Branch of the Kent District Library so her mom could snap a photo of the achievement.

It was the second time her work had been displayed as part of the annual Downtown Art & Chocolate Walk, so the Cummings Elementary fourth-grader seemed pretty comfortable as she worked the room.

Attendees were able to make their own masterpieces

Her big brother, sixth-grader Henry, might have been a smidge more elated as he took his place in front of the Zen garden with hands he had drawn in art class. “It’s my first time ever,” he explained.

Elementary art teacher Tara Meeuwsen submitted student work to seven multi-district shows so far this year, but most only accept a few entries. Even fewer are an open display where parents can come see the art.

During the city’s third annual art and chocolate event, held this year on April 21, the evening event showcased hundreds of pieces of art from Grandville students in preschool through grade 12.

“The volume of work we submit is wonderful,” Meeuwsen said. “This is also a great chance for the arts to show their value to the community. This is my favorite show of the year.”

Building Community

Works were displayed in 20 downtown venues alongside chocolate- and beverage-tasting stations that were open to attendees who had purchased tickets. One-third of the proceeds went to the Grandville Education Foundation.

Student musicians from ukuleles to choirs to jazz bands performed at the top of every hour. Visitors also enjoyed a spring high school musical preview, student street bands and individual student performers.

Marcia Force, foundation director, said funds raised from the event will be used to support a new music program the foundation wants to bring to every elementary school in the district. 

Young art aficionados take in the exhibits at Johnson Carpet“I’m absolutely positive the teachers all love getting their students’ work out there, and to see art get the public attention it deserves,” Force said. “These teachers all have such a passion for what they do and love for their students, it truly shines throughout the event. It’s very fulfilling to see students beaming with pride to show their families their artwork or see them perform on stage.”

Theresa Meendering, events planner for the Downtown Development Authority, said the event is a boon for the downtown businesses and vibe.

“To have over 1,000 people roaming the streets on an evening in April is huge,” she said. “It is also great for building community. Families see other families from their schools, and are able to catch up on life. Events draw us together and make our town one in which people feel a part.”


Grandville Education Foundation

Want to draw multi-generational crowds downtown? Show art, add chocolate

Morgan Jarema
Morgan Jarema is a Grand Rapids native and a product of Grand Rapids Public Schools, including Brookside and West Leonard elementaries, City Middle/High School and Ottawa Hills. She found her tribe in journalism in 1997 and has never wanted to do anything but write. For 15 years she was a freelance journalist for The Grand Rapids Press, covering local schools and government, religion, business, home & garden and lifestyles. She and her husband, John, think even those without kiddos should be invested in their local schools and made to feel a part of them.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here