The Rapidian Home

100,000 Paper Airplanes

Underwriting support from:
Rob Bliss and a growing pile of paper airplanes.

Rob Bliss and a growing pile of paper airplanes. /by A Deeper Blue (Rapidian Flickr photo pool)

By now you may or may not have heard of Rob Bliss, but he has left his mark in Grand Rapids.  When he posted his event for a pillow fight in Rosa Park Circle on Face book last year, he was hoping for a hundred people, more than 1000 showed up. His events have grown from there. With successful events, such as Grand Rapids Electronic Music Night, Chalk Flood and The Zombie Walk, Bliss has been able to pull people together to create, in unique and fun ways that are universally accessible.

    In April, Bliss knew he wanted to make something rain from the sky.  He knew he wanted to involve planes in a project. He also wanted to contribute to ArtPrize, the expansive art contest covering the downtown area for two weeks. Then while listening to Sigur Ros’s Olsen Olsen he found the inspiration to tie it all together; 100,000 paper airplanes in the colors of the rainbow, tossed from rooftops of Grand Rapids accompanied by that very tune.

    Though Bliss is a student, and he doesn’t have a job in the typical sense, he dedicates 40 to 50 hours a week to his projects, for which he receives no pay. Bliss’s only income is from t-shirt sales, which he immediately reinvests into the projects. But even that isn’t enough for his latest idea. With generous help from the Grand Rapids Community Foundation Bliss has been able to purchase supplies and hire a cleanup crew. He has worked diligently to gain access to the 6 rooftops that the planes will be launched from. He’s obtained insurance and found 20 friends to help with the launch. 

    As for 100,000 planes from 100,000 sheets of paper, he is solely reliant on volunteers. Every Saturday and Sunday from 11am until  6pm Bliss is inviting people into his downtown apartment to participate. Every airplane made from 30% post consumer recycled paper, printed with the sheet music from “Olsen Olsen” will be hand folded by a volunteer.  Ever conscious of the public, Bliss is ensuring safety by creating every plane to be “eye-safe” by  folding the tip back so the nose of the plane is not a point.

If you’d like to get involved, contact Rob on Facebook. There is ample need for volunteers to fold planes and, if you are musically talented, come out on Sunday September 27th, between 12:30 and 1:30 to Monroe avenue. It will definitely be a performance to  be a part of. Sheet music is available here, Learn more about the event here.

The Rapidian, a program of the 501(c)3 nonprofit Community Media Center, relies on the community’s support to help cover the cost of training reporters and publishing content.

We need your help.

If each of our readers and content creators who values this community platform help support its creation and maintenance, The Rapidian can continue to educate and facilitate a conversation around issues for years to come.

Please support The Rapidian and make a contribution today.

Comments, like all content, are held to The Rapidian standards of civility and open identity as outlined in our Terms of Use and Values Statement. We reserve the right to remove any content that does not hold to these standards.


First off, great profile Matt. But aren't some of Bliss' projects funded partially by the Downtown Alliance as well? I have also heard tell of in-kind donations by various city services. I believe these projects have gotten some kind of support in addition to private/foundation money in the past - am I wrong on that?

Thank you George, you are correct. Part of what makes Bliss's projects such a success is that he is so good at securing funding and networking with people. As I stated, he treats these projects as a full time job. Between making calls, connecting with volunteers, securing funding and getting access to venues he keeps very busy. I did not get the full list of his contributers on previous projects.
Also, it may be of note, that Bliss wasn't successful in securing the venues on his first attempts. Understandably, property managers were very nervous about allowing people on the roofs of these buildings. Through perseverence and going directly to building owners, he was finally successful.

Thank you for your reply. I see now that you were only talking about the latest project when talking about the funding. I find the funding behind public art projects particularly interesting, so any hint of tax-payer involvement through in-kind police support, or DA financial support is worth taking note of - at least for me. It's interesting to see how things may be different now that bliss is no longer making these events in a vacuum, but rather in the context of a much larger art happening.

I would like to challenge Rob, if this is a success, that next year he could launch the planes with enough people on the streets to catch every one of them before they hit the ground. That sure would bring in citizen participation. It would be fun to see what kind of prize could be offered to the person that catches the most planes. My suggestion would be a free glider ride over the Greater Grand Rapids area. Come on Rob lets see you pull that one off.