Memorial Planned For Koning

December 19, 2005
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GRAND RAPIDS — The Grand Rapids Community Media Center is looking for an artist to create a memorial to honor its founding executive director, Dirk Koning.

The center is accepting proposals until Dec. 30 for the Dirk Koning Memorial Garden Walkway, which will be located on the west side of the recently acquired Wealthy Street Theatre, 1130 Wealthy St. SE. Koning was the executive director of the center from 1981 until his death in February.

Tim Goodwin, the center’s founding president and Koning’s close friend, said the theme of the walkway is to incorporate bells in honor of a story that Koning frequently told about the meaning of communication. When Koning was in Africa, there was a village he and others were trying to help. Instead of the radios and technology they offered, the village chief said he would like to have a bell to communicate messages to the people of the village.

Goodwin said Koning would tell the story to illustrate appropriate technology and the necessity of asking those receiving the technology about their needs.

“It just seemed wholly proper that that be how we honor him,” Goodwin said.

Though the walkway should incorporate the theme from the bell story, Goodwin said how that is accomplished is entirely up to the artist.

“We don’t want to constrict an artist by saying it will be this or that, per se,” he said. “It will be totally up to the artist’s perception.”

The budget for the project is $100,000 to cover the artist’s fee as well as material, labor and expenses. The proposals must also include a way to incorporate “bell level” donations that may contain a person’s name and a personal message depending on the level of donation. There are levels from $50 to $1,000, each with a corresponding sound of bell, such as pianissimo or fortissimo.

Goodwin said he hopes the community will gain from the walkway and that artists will take the community into consideration.

“We do hope that artists take the opportunity to talk to folks in the neighborhood to see what they think is appropriate,” he said. “There’s a little bit of research involved in the artist coming up with the appropriate way to do it.”

With the Wealthy Street Theatre located in the middle of three neighborhood associations, Goodwin said he hopes the walkway will become a place people can visit to reflect on the meaning of technology — as well as a meeting place.

“We hope it’s a rallying point for the community,” he said.

The plans will be unveiled at a celebration Jan. 31, the day after Koning’s birthday.    

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