Get Hands-on at the Festival of the Arts in Downtown Grand Rapids

Get Hands-on at the Festival of the Arts in Downtown Grand Rapids

As the school year is coming to a close, why not inspire children to keep being creative all summer long? The annual Festival of the Arts in downtown Grand Rapids is the way to do just that– while also sampling some great street cuisine and enjoying some open air music and art.

Photo by Alison Mosher
Soundmeetsound. Photo by Alison Mosher

The Festival takes place in the first full weekend of June, and 2015 marked its 46th year. It features many local musicians, dance companies, and other artists willing to share their art with the community. These performances are scattered all over downtown on six different stages, showing off our fair city as a venue for so much talent. Some of the performers in the line up that I had the pleasure to see this year included Soundmeetsound, Caledonia Dance & Music Center, and the Baltijos Krantas Lithuanian School, all of which provided wonderful, crowd-pleasing performances.

Plan to come hungrythe festival has food galore! Lining both sides of Ottawa Avenue are food tents sponsored and staffed by many local churches and non-profit community groups, and the food offering comes in a pretty diverse variety as well. In one day at the festival, I had General Tso’s chicken, a Polish kielbasa, and an elephant ear, and these represented just a small sample of the many available options. For those with picky eaters in tow, there were many kid-friendly food options as well.

At the information booth, I received a well-organized booklet outlining the

Caledonia Dancers at the Calder stage. Photo by Alison Mosher
Caledonia Dancers at the Calder stage. Photo by Alison Mosher

festival lineup and where to find each of the booths and stages. The festival was founded in 1970 after Alexander Calder placed his iconic sculpture La Grande Vitesse, or “the grand rapids,” in the Calder plaza the year before. In the first few years there were only two stages and no streets needed to be closed in order to host the festival. Since then the event has grown immensely in popularity and now hosts almost half a million visitors each year. Judging by the growth in popularity in recent years, we can probably count on it continuing to grow for years to come.

Photo by Alison Mosher
Photo by Alison Mosher

There is are also many activities for guests to roll up their sleeves and make art themselves. There are a few tents for children to create masterpieces out of paint and wood, and there is also a tent for us grown-ups and big kids who are artists at heart (13 and older). There is also storytelling at the Courthouse to escape the early June heat or rain (though we we were fortunate enough to have a gorgeous day!).

For all of you art investors out there, there is also a tent that features local artists selling their work, all of whom that would love to see you. There is everything from large canvas paintings to jewelry, pottery, and even some bottle cap lamps.

Did you attend? Favorite act? Favorite food? Comment below and see you next year!