Symbolic self-portrait brightens downtown during The Bridge GR

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — It’s feeling topical in downtown Grand Rapids.

A new art installation has been added to Monroe Center near the Grand Rapids Art Museum. Tropical Realness was created by a local artist who says it’s a playful self-portrait.

Jeffrey Augustine Songco was born in America but his parents immigrated from the Philippines. The artist says the palm trees symbolize his Filipino roots and the rainbow colors represent his sexuality as a gay man.

He said he hopes the art makes people smile.

“Also, I hope that people can wander around and think about how they represent themselves as we walk around the world. You know, what colors do you love, what symbols do you use to represent yourself?” Songco said.

His piece is part of a monthlong art project organized by city leaders and businesses to replace ArtPrize, which was canceled in 2020 due to the coronavirus. The Bridge GR art program runs through Oct. 3 and will include several art, culture and music events.

Songco competed in ArtPrize in 2011, 2012, 2015, 2016 and 2017. In 2017, he won a juried category award for a different installation, “Society of 23’s Locker Dressing Room.”

Tropical Realness will be up through the end of the month. The artist said the city may move it to a different spot in October.