In 2007, the long-standing Grand Rapids Art Museum (GRAM) (101 Monroe Center, 616/831-1000, www.artmuseumgr.org , 10 a.m.–5 p.m. Tues.–Thurs. and Sat., 10 a.m.–9 p.m. Fri., noon–5 p.m. Sun., $8 adults, $7 seniors and students, $5 children 6–17) was moved from its original spot and reborn within an environmentally-friendly building that has been hailed by architectural critics throughout the world. Inside, extensive collections include fine 19th- and 20th-century prints, paintings, photographs, sculptures, and decorative arts with an emphasis on—surprise!—furniture.
The art museum’s major competition for the dollars and time of museum-goers is the Public Museum (272 Pearl St. NW, 616/456-3977, www.grmuseum.org , 9 a.m.–5 p.m. Mon.–Sat., noon–5 p.m. Sun., closed on major holidays, $8 adults, $3 children 3–17). Arguably the city’s best museum, the Public is housed in a spectacular structure and ranks as the largest general museum in the state. It cost $35 million to build in 1995, much of it a gift from Amway co-founder Jay Van Andel.
The Public Museum holds an outstanding permanent collection of incredible size and scope. Here, you can witness the massive flywheel of a 1905 Corliss-type steam engine that once powered the city’s furniture factories in “The Furniture City” exhibit, walk through a re-creation of 1890s Grand Rapids , take a turn aboard a restored 1928 Spillman carousel, or see stars at the Roger B. Chaffee Planetarium.
The groundbreaking exhibit “Anishinabek: The People of This Place” sensitively explores the culture and artifacts of the Anishinabe people, western Michigan’s Native Americans. An illuminating explanation of the state’s indigenous Ottawa, Chippewa, and Potawatomi peoples, it includes video interviews that trace the modern challenges of Native Americans and the stereotypes that continue to haunt them.