La Grande Vitesse

Art Around the Corner/La Grande Vitesse
Experience Grand Rapids
Written By Experience Grand Rapids

Get ready to be wowed - Grand Rapids never fails to surprise visitors with the huge variety of things to see and do here: World-renowned art, museums and historic sites for cultural vacationers. World-class golf, recreation and beaches for nature lovers. Incredible farm-to-table restaurants for foodies and wholesome "playcation" fun for families.

La Grande Vitesse was created by American sculptor Alexander Calder, who designed it as a stabile – that is, a type of sculpture he developed to explore movement. “La Grande Vitesse” is a French phrase meaning “The Great Swiftness,” which is a nod to the city’s namesake river rapids. Standing 54 feet long, 43 feet high and 30 feet wide, the sculpture appears to shift and change as the viewer moves around it, just as our Grand River constantly transforms itself.

Installed in 1969, La Grande Vitesse was the very first public work of art funded by the National Endowment for the Arts. It was a game-changer for Grand Rapids, inspiring a robust public arts program and serving as a symbol of the city’s creative, can-do spirit. The sculpture’s likeness is now incorporated into the city’s official logo. Most locals refer to the piece as “The Calder” and the public square it inhabits as “Calder Plaza.” It is the centerpiece of many local gatherings, including the annual Festival of the Arts. The world’s largest Calder painting covers the 127-foot-square rooftop of the adjacent County Building and can be enjoyed from the ninth floor of City Hall.

La Grande Vitesse
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La Grande Vitesse

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