The Rapidian Home

Beauty of Chaos: ArtPrize Profile of Erwin Erkfitz

Erwin Erkfitz, entrant in ArtPrize 2010, inside Stella's Lounge showing us Chaotic Growth.

Erwin Erkfitz, entrant in ArtPrize 2010, inside Stella's Lounge showing us Chaotic Growth. /Daniel Heeren

Underwriting support from:

More Information:

Chaotic Growth is located inside and in front of Stella's Lounge at 53 Commerce Ave SW, Grand Rapids, MI, 49503.

More information can be found at Stella's Lounge's website,

To learn more about Erwin Erkfitz and Chaotic Growth, check out the following:

Chaotic Growth's website :

Erwin Erfitz's ArtPrize page:

Erwin Erfitz's blog, EEBlog:

Chaotic Growth mural at Stella's Lounge

Chaotic Growth mural at Stella's Lounge /Daniel Heeren

The Totems, contributed by Cameron Murray

The Totems, contributed by Cameron Murray /Daniel Heeren



Erwin Erkfitz, a 29 year old from LaPeer county, Michigan got into art at a very early age. As a seven year old child, his first drawing was the cover of Treasure Island. Throughout elementary, middle school, and high school, he loved to doodle. “Art was always a hobby… a sport for me,” he said. “It was just something that I did.” He took a number of art classes throughout Junior High and High School. The ball continued rolling and he found himself applying at a number of art schools after graduation.

He was soon accepted at to Kendall College of Art and Design and attended from 1999 to 2004. It was during his enrollment at Kendall that he went from making art as a hobby to completely immersing himself in it. Art school was a different experience for him. In art school, he said, whatever you’re doing, wherever you are, you’re always thinking about art. It was the only place where people did what they studied for fun outside of class as well.

Some time after ArtPrize 2009, Mark Sellers, the owner of local bar and microbrewery Hopcat, was looking for something for his new business venture. Sellers searched online for “Urban Art in Grand Rapids” and found information about an urban art workshop at a library in Grand Rapids conducted by Erwin Erkfitz and the artist's 2009 ArtPrize entry. Sellers managed to contact him while Erwin was working at The Meanwhile, a bar in Easttown. A few months later, on May 1st 2009, people were welcomed into Stella’s Lounge, a new bar and lounge also owned by Sellers.

Walking in the door, people are greeted by an array of colors and rich illustrations of robots and cityscapes. At the top of the entry stairs, an unfamiliar deity observes their movement and seems to beckon them further. Continuing on, they are met with a mural covering the majority of the back wall. Millions of things are happening on this wall. A tall guy with a toothy look stares blankly ahead. Skulls are scattered about. Three heads of a friendly-looking totem pole survey the room. Hyper Organic Structures, as Erwin calls them, sprout and spread from many locations, including another deity, similar to the one who greets guests at the door. This is all part of "Chaotic Growth," Erkfitz's ArtPrize 2010.

The deity in "Chaotic Growth" and in some of his other works, such as "The Ancestrals," is called the Caretaker and it represents the connection between The Ancestrals and We’re All Connected 2.0. The Caretaker, his other characters, and recurring themes came from a number of years where he’d sit down and draw in sort of a meditation; he’d always end up drawing similar things. He’d begin with the same first pencil stroke that would then lead into drawing people and figures without any real mission. He later found a home for these new characters by giving them a definition. He asked himself, “Could these be another set of Gods?” Like a new religion? Erwin said that he’s always been drawn to the human need for an “all answer question” or a reason to exist, and he’s enamored by the different ideas that people have come up with to meet those ends.

Erwin likes Artprize. The reasons for this are numerous. For instance, if you’ve ever been to the Heartside district on Cherry and Division, you may have spotted a large plant with a blue heart instead of a flower. That heart-flower was the focal point of Erwin Erfitz’s 2009 ArtPrize entry, "We’re All Connected 2.0." ArtPrize gave this work more exposure than it would have had otherwise.  ArtPrize also drew attention to the Heartside district itself. Erwin has been working with organizations such as The Avenue for the Arts and Dwelling Place of Grand Rapids to help revitalize Heartside.

To him, ArtPrize has also helped improve the city of Grand Rapids culturally. “I think ArtPrize is, yet again, another catalyst ingredient to add to the list of creative endeavors, events, etcetera, that the people in the creative community have been doing to build the creative culture of Grand Rapids,” he says. Art and creativity have done a lot to make Grand Rapids what it is today and ArtPrize, he says, helps open the eyes of people who they previously couldn’t reach.

To many, the city of Grand Rapids could be its own new thing. Erwin isn’t the only artist who believes this. Grand Rapids could become as important in the art scene as New York or Chicago. But Erkfitz believes it doesn’t need to be a huge place like Chicago or New York. “Let’s grow exponentially in content,” he tells me. He elaborates by saying Grand Rapids could become richer culturally, without having to grow in size and crowdedness. Avenue of the Arts and also Art Downtown are helping to reach that end.

Erwin wasn’t the only artist to do work on "Chaotic Growth." There were three other members of his team and he wanted that to be clear. Mitchell Hess is a graduate of Kendall College of Art and Design and has lived in Grand Rapids for over ten years. He created the math vortex, a swirling black hole of numbers, and mathematical symbols. Cameron Murray is a Grand Rapids based graphic artist who contributed such things as the Tall Guy and the Totems to "Chaotic Growth." Finally, there’s Jeremiah Johnson, a cartoonist who did work for Cartoon Network and Nickelodeon according to the "Chaotic Growth" website.  His work includes the character-rich robots on the walls of the stairway.

Long after ArtPrize is over this year, it’s likely that Erwin and the rest of the team will continue contributing heavily to the culture of Grand Rapids. Whether it’s with the beautification of the city, the restoration of our older neighborhoods, or with more commissioned works and galleries, a group with this much talent is going to go places.

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.