Grand Rapids hosts the 50th annual Festival of the Arts


Arie Nienhuis

With events such as ArtPrize and venues like the Grand Rapids Art Museum, Grand Valley State University’s closest major city has situated itself as one of the premier artistic communities in the Midwest. When it comes to celebrating this heritage, the annual Festival of the Arts covers all of the bases. This city-wide celebration of art and local culture has become one of Grand Rapids’ strongest traditions, and their 50th iteration was one of the largest the city has seen.

Local business owner, art-lover and new Festival of the Arts Director David Abbott headed this year’s festival, which provided activities for all ages, including live music, art, food and family activities spread across the city.

“(This festival) invites all the arts organizations around the common table,” Abbott said. “All of the organizations are together for common discussion and a common goal. For example, the Grand Rapids Ballet, the only professional ballet company in Michigan, performed with us in the first festival. Now, they made the decision to hold a premier at the festival. It has such magical magnitude.”

Aside from the stunning ballet performances and exciting musical offerings, Abbott expressed huge excitement for the introduction of food trucks into the festival lineup. For the first time, the 50th festival offered an array of food trucks from local vendors. Furthermore, the classic local food tents peppered the streets with dishes from around the world.

“Being a guy from the Southeast side of town, the festival was the first time I experienced Greek food, which returns among other foods,” Abbott said. “We also have a great partnership with Electric Cheetah, who is debuting their own root beer, as well as a partnership with Perrin Brewing for the festival’s very own beer, Amber of the Arts.”

In the vein of classical art itself, this year’s festival was individual in the ability for people to purchase some of the art on display. Over 300 pieces of art were available to buy, all of which were sure to have gone to good homes.

Abbott also expressed an enormous gratitude to GVSU’s support of the arts, specifically mentioning the efforts of art gallery director Henry Matthews in the enrichment of artistic culture on campus. He also urged students to get involved with future festivals, specifically for the personal experience the volunteering will provide.

“One thing students should check out are the volunteer opportunities,” Abbott said. “One of the greatest joys of the festival is helping in the children’s tents and watching kids paint and express their creative energy. You can also be a stagehand, do face paint, all of which are great ways for students to participate and experience the hospitality of festival. You’ll get good training in the areas of arts, as well as a t-shirt and a hat.”

Abbott finally implored every student to take time to see Grand Rapids’ magnificent Alexander Calder sculpture, La Grande Vitesse, a work of art that has become an icon for this wonderful city.