The Calder.

A paint-by-number painting celebrating Grand Rapids and painted by over 1.5K random participants.


Follow the journey in the Project Journal to learn about the design, building and public participation.

The final painting:

A video time-lapse from beginning to end:

What inspired the painting?

The Calder is a 6′ x 12′, colorful paint-by-number painting that was painted by 1,500 random people who attended ArtPrize 2023 in Grand Rapids. The canvas depicts a vibrant version of the Alexander Calder sculpture, La Grande Vitesse. The painting is made up of 1,500 numbered areas that were each roughly 2″ x 3″ in size. It was a fully collaborative project that encapsulated the spirit of community.

Whether participants had painted paint-by-numbers in their youth or not, young and old added their special touch to contribute to the final painting. 


Alexander Calder completed the sculpture for Grand Rapids in 1969. Read more about its history in this MLive article.

Each participant was shown the ten color paint swatches and corresponding numbers. Once they chose a color, they were given a small cup of paint and a brush. I would take their photo for the Artist Mosaic poster after they were given an I Painted the Calder sticker. Each participant painted one numbered area (though some got carried away and painted more!).

Participants of all ages were welcome to paint, regardless of physical ability. Lower spots were available for anyone unable to reach higher areas. Smiles were shared by all!

The finish painting celebrates a true community icon and the spirit of Grand Rapids. With memories still fresh of the pandemic and social distancing, it’s a project about bringing all of us together on a fun, bold project which celebrates the artist in each of us!

This view shows our setup outside the Hyatt Place Downtown GR entrance while painting was still happening. Posters about Alexander Calder, the Artist Mosaic and the posted painting times were set up. Our bin of 200+ foam brushes and cups of paint are visible. We had roughly 50 paint cups per session. A session happened every two hours. The bucket under the table contained used brushes in water.

Painting proved very popular on the weekends, with multiple people all painting at once.

Just a few of the hundreds of faces we met! The Artist Mosaic poster showcases faces of the 1,500+ people who enjoyed being a part of Paint the Calder! If ArtPrize were judged on the number of smiles given, we’d be the clear winner! Check out our photo gallery for more faces!


It’s back! ArtPrize 2024

It’s back! ArtPrize 2024

After some weeks of consideration this spring, I decided to enter the painting again this year for ArtPrize 2024. This submission is in a new category this year. Last year it was a Time Based project and this year it's a 2D project. Why enter a second year? Primarily...

Wrap Up

Wrap Up

Finally, the painting was done, but there was still one more week of ArtPrize. I made an effort of sitting out with the painting and chatting with curious people who passed by. Several expressed regret that they were unable to participate. Some were amazed at the...

Week Two

Week Two

Week two would end with the completion of the painting. Many people stopped by going into the second weekend too. We were thrilled to have members from Artists Creating Together (ACT) stop by one afternoon to paint.  My wife and I were able to stop by their facility...

Day Four – Sunday

Day Four – Sunday

Sunday shaped up to be a special day. Maya Schuhknecht, Miss Michigan, greeted participants and shared her enthusiasm for art. An artist herself, she brought smiles to many who were surprised to see her greeting people passing by. Maya has an engaging personality and...

Day Three – Saturday

Day Three – Saturday

After a busy Friday, we knew Saturday would be busy. We were right! Thank goodness for our small army of volunteers who made the process seamless for participants and kept the wait times to a minimum. With our freshly cleaned brushes from the night before, filled...

Day Two – First Friday

Day Two – First Friday

After a successful first evening, we had the process down with regard to handing out paint and getting a photo of each face. We'd gotten in the habit of washing the day's used brushes in the evening but had enough initially to last for a full day (bin of new, clean...

A unique painting painted by over 1.5K unique participants

Artist Statement

My first experience with paint-by-numbers was as a child with my mother. They were always fun projects to do yet little did I know at the time that I would someday go to art school at Kendall College of Art and Design and pursue a career in commercial art. I remember the smell of the paints in the little connected plastic containers. The paintings were an early lesson in how focusing on small sections could end up resulting in a satisfying final painting.

After participating in the first ArtPrize as the conceptual artist behind “The Grand Dance” sculpture that was placed in the Grand River, I hoped I would someday move forward with my own entry. I had an idea to do a community paint-by-number painting that would involve hundreds of people, though I initially considered the idea as likely unoriginal. In recent years, the pandemic separated us like never before while our wider community continues to be separated by politics, class, race and a number of other issues. The time seemed right to focus on a project that could bring people together, even for a few moments at a time.

Deciding to focus on the Calder sculpture was an easy choice. It’s such a powerful icon of Grand Rapids and made an immediate impression on me when I moved here to go to college in 1984. A community that embraced such an iconic piece of art must certainly possess an appreciation for bold ideas.  The view I chose emphasizes the grandeur and size and begins to feel a bit abstract, just as the sculpture itself.

As the pandemic slowly became a memory, the idea of a community project seemed more important than ever and a logical pursuit for me and a reignited ArtPrize. I’m excited to provide an art experience for 1,200 of my fellow artists and non-artists to experience. Each small area painted by a fellow citizen will become part of a final image that symbolizes the spirit of community and our appreciation for being bold.

Available to a Good Home

Own a business and interested in displaying The Calder in a public-facing space? Are you a Grand Rapids institution looking for a compelling representation of the city? Please contact me to inquire. I’d love to find a good home for the painting where people can enjoy it. I’m willing to offer the painting to a good home for a low cost to cover the initial materials.

Photo Gallery

Visit the photo gallery that has just a few of the hundreds of faces and photos from the event!

A community-centered painting celebrating a true icon!

What’s So Cool About Paint-by-Numbers?

I’ve kept these two paint-by-number paintings of dogs since childhood and they bring back fond memories of being an eight year old and spending time with my mother. They were still in their dusty old broken frames until I recently re-framed them.

She would buy these type of kits for the two of us to do to past time together. I’m sure she ended up contributing most of the brush strokes, but I learned to take my time and try and be as detailed and careful as she had been.

I heard that sales of paint-by-number kits increased during the pandemic, which makes sense since it’s a great activity for people of all ages.

Two paint-by-number paintings my mother and I completed over 45 years ago.

A painting that brought joy to all that participated

My Art Journey

Besides my early “training” with paint-by-numbers, I discovered a love for drawing while being a shy kid and changing schools frequently. It wasn’t until high school that I considered pursuing a possible career in it. My parents and art teachers were supportive and I entered a few drawings in a Scholastic Art Competition while attending Ferndale High School where I won a couple awards, including a small scholarship to Kendall College of Art & Design in Grand Rapids. My family moved during my senior year and I attended Roscommon High School where I became known as the “new kid who could draw”. 

I decided to attend Kendall in the fall of 1984 where I went on to meet my future wife my junior year and settle down in the area after graduation, working in the graphics department of a local engineering firm.

Now working for myself, I’ve enjoyed a 35-year career as a graphic artist and still serve local and national customers in a variety of services including graphic design, illustration, web design, animation and more.

In 2009, I was asked to provide conceptual ideas for David Lubber’s entry, The Grand Dance, for the inaugural year of ArtPrize. It was thrilling to be a part of the team and see the community embrace art and our project in particular, while the city welcomed the tourism the event resulted in.

To see samples of my commercial work, visit my HOW DESIGNWORKS website.

My old college I.D.

My three kids taking in the first ArtPrize and posing with The Grand Dance behind them.

Our group of Kendall friends and their families visiting the Calder 30 years after our graduation.

A project that revealed the artist in all of us

Over 1,500 Participants!

A major aspect of the project was having 1,500 participants assist with painting the large 6′ x 12′ depiction of the sculpture. They were shown a collection of the ten possible color choices with the cooresponding number.

Participants were welcome to paint, regardless of physical ability. Lower spots were available for anyone unable to reach higher areas.

Volunteers were available to assist with locating the numbered areas, providing the paint cup and brush, and assisting with the flow of participants.

Fifty participants per session were able to paint over the first two weekends of ArtPrize.

The completed  “Artist Mosaic” poster includes a photo of each participant’s face. It’s a great companion record of all who put brush to canvas!

The Artist Mosaic poster is complete! See above. Nearly 1,500 faces appear (minus those that we missed or didn’t want to be photographed).

A colorful tapestry of shapes painted to celebrate the sculpture, participatory art and Grand Rapids

Follow the Project on Instagram

The Calder

For more information, media contacts, or purchasing, email Howard Wright