Festival of the Arts makes it official: summer is here!

The official start of summer – Festival of the Arts – kicks off in just a couple of weeks –June 2, 3, 4 – and there is already a buzz about some of the programs and partnerships for this year’s event.


“Festival embraces the tradition and sense of community ownership while at the same time recognizing the need for change and improvement, as long as the core values of the event are retained,” said Lisa Radeck, 2017 co-chair. “Each year, new activities and performers are added, new volunteers are sought, and we strive to empower new and alternative forms of artistic expression. As the community grows, we grow, together. The tradition continues by diversity and inclusion.”


One of the biggest changes is the revamping of the children’s activities and performances to create “Kids’ World” at Rosa Parks Circle stage during all three days of Festival.


Family favorite kids’ activities such as Mad Hatter will be joined with new activities from a host of local organizations. Some of the activities are: Sack Suppers with Kids Food Basket, design-a-diaper with Great Start Collaborative – First Steps, Camp Curious with the Grand Rapids Public Museum, animal visits with John Ball Zoo, hands-on health and proper nutrition projects with Ferris State University School of Pharmacy, and a dance and motion project with Grandville Avenue Arts. Sunday will be International Day with the Grand Rapids Sister Cities organization and Bethany Christian Services, providing a day of international arts and entertainment emphasizing “Kids from around the World.”


Friday stage performances at Rosa Parks Circle stage include the Gemini Brothers, Dilly Songs with Kevin Kammeraad, and Miranda of “The Miranda Show.” (Note this is not a park party event.) Saturday features Jim the Spoon Man, John Ball Zoo, Dilly Songs, and the Grandville Avenue Arts and Humanities.


There are numerous other activities beyond Kids’ World and the stage performances. Everyone gets a chance to join in on hands-on participation fun with Adult Paint-In and Swingin’ Art, and returning for the first time since the late ’80s, Festival is bringing back block printing to the Printmaking Booth! Block printing will be on paper with blocks made by participants in past printmaking workshops or by using block letters to print your own name or favorite saying, and visitors can also participate in screen printing by bringing their own material or purchasing a plain white t-shirt in youth and adult sizes for sale at the booth.


The other popular Festival stages, Calder, City, and Outer Fringe will be open and hosting a wide variety of performances by artists from eight West Michigan counties represented at Festival. New this year is the Kendall Stage, located on Pearl Street between the Ferris State University’s Kendall College of Art and Design’s main building and the Kendall Galleries located in the Woodbridge N. Ferris Building.


“The Festival 2017 Regional Arts Committee is thrilled to be working with Kendall College of Art and Design of Ferris State University,” said Regional Arts Co-Chair Fred Bivins. “Everyone there has been a pleasure to work with, and we feel like we’re coming home to the Fed Galleries in the former Federal Building, now the Woodbridge N. Ferris Building, as the show was there for many years when the building housed the Grand Rapids Art Museum and for several more when the City of Grand Rapids allowed us its use for the show.”


While the main Festival activities are always the first full weekend in June, the Festival Regional Arts Exhibition starts the celebration a few days earlier with its opening reception on May 31 from 5 – 8 p.m. The exhibition will be up from June 1 to July 15.


Each year, Festival invites a local artist or group of artists to carry the tradition forward in the design of a poster. The 2017 “Make it a Family Tradition” theme is reflected by the four artists who created this year’s poster. Their names are familiar to many in the region: author and illustrator Ryan Hipp; puppeteer, artist, and “Tomato Collection” author Kevin Kammeraad, Kammeraad’s son and artist Carlos, and retired Rockford High School art teacher Ken Vidro. They have made Festival of the Arts their own “family tradition” with the multi-generational poster collaboration. The artists are also longtime participants at Festival, for the last ten years their artwork has been featured in the Art Sales Tent, which is partly the reason the 2017 co-chairs Radeck and Merrie Pieri-Clark selected them to design this year’s colorful poster.


Visitors to Festival 2017 are encouraged to visit the Art Sales Tent where they will find favorites new and old, as several area artists and artisans will be on hand selling unique items and are happy to share information about their work.


Last but certainly not least, Festival continues the tradition of including the culinary arts in its mix, where year after year visitors experience flavors from around the world along the streets of downtown Grand Rapids. More than twenty-five food booths operated by non-profits will be offering a variety of items from the popular souvlaki sandwich to popcorn and much more. “We are excited to welcome a couple of new food offerings which includes tamales!” said Pieri-Clark.


Opening ceremonies will follow tradition, with the celebration kickoff at noon on Friday, June 2. New this year is a second ceremony on opening day for those coming later in the evening. The second ceremony will take place at 7:00 p.m. Friday.


For all the latest information about Festival of the Arts, including performance schedules, activities, and food booths, visit www.festivalgr.org or check out the organization’s Facebook page at Facebook.com/festivalGR.