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Niibii: a mural commissioned by Blandin Foundation

Niibii, the Ojibwe word for water, is a mural being created for placement on Blandin Foundation’s building. Local artist Leah Yellowbird is leading the work.

The mural will depict an underwater scene with fish, otters, beavers and other creatures with different themes important to the Itasca area woven into the design, like forests, the four seasons, recreation and other local symbols.

We are excited to create this piece with and for the community in a way that honors what we all love most about this place we call home. We believe that in order for a community to be truly healthy, all dimensions – including opportunities to experience art and culture – must be nurtured. This is especially true in the Itasca area where Charles Blandin made his foundation’s first investments in arts and recreation, including the Grand Rapids Marching Band and parks like Blandin Beach. He knew then what we know now – arts create a sense of place, a certain quality of life, that draws people and investment. We look forward to bringing the vibrancy of Grand Rapids to life through art.


The creation process will go through August 2019. Installation will occur in mid-September.

Get Involved

Niibii is being created to honor what local residents love most about living in the Itasca area. The intent is that the process and product will be of and for the community – contributing to the community’s shared story.  Community members are invited to visit the third floor of Old Central School (10 NW 5th St, Grand Rapids) to view and assist in painting the mural.

About the Artist

Leah Yellowbird is a Grand Rapids-based painter and beadwork artist. Since 2013, Yellowbird has worked as a full-time artist. Her primary medium is painting, though recent works also include sculpture, mixed media and fiber art. With her Anishinaabe heritage as an inspiration, her work often reflects beadwork, with animals and Ojibwe floral motifs rendered in a pointillist style. She is a current Artist in Residence in Central School.

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