About Festival

More than Five Decades of Arts and Culture

In 1969, Alexander Calder’s sculpture “La Grande Vitesse” was installed in front of City Hall in downtown Grand Rapids. The National Endowment for the Arts chose Grand Rapids as the first recipient of their public art works initiative nearly 50 years ago with Alexander Calder’s work.

History of Festival

Festival began in 1970 – a grand celebration of the arts in West Michigan, inspired by the 1969 installation of Alexander Calder’s “La Grande Vitesse” (“The Great Swiftness”). From the beginning, the vibrant red stabile served as the backdrop to Festival, as well as a symbol of the City of Grand Rapids.

That first Festival showcased just a few art displays and two performance stages, plus a few food booths.

Over the years, Festival’s popularity grew to include most of downtown Grand Rapids. Families enjoyed local performers at several stages, art shows and activities for families – all free of charge – as well as an assortment of tasty offerings from food booths operated by nonprofit organizations.

50 Years of Community Vision

Festival supports the arts, and provides an opportunity for artists and arts organizations to showcase their talents to the public with a 3-day, free-admission event.
Festival aims to build greater appreciation for the “quality of life” in West Michigan, thanks to our local cultural organizations, artists and performers.
The leadership of Festival affirms our commitment to the arts in West Michigan by holding Festival in downtown Grand Rapids.
Through the years, Festival has retained the original concept of a nonprofit, community event, thanks to the skilled volunteers who make the event happen each year.

Looking Forward:
Our Strategic Plan

At Festival, we believe the arts are for everyone.

We strive to offer West Michigan an opportunity to experience the best West Michigan performers, artists and craftspeople in an environment that is free, accessible and welcoming to all.

Festival is an authentic, immersive experience for our diverse community.

We recently launched a strategic plan to help us pursue greater diversity and inclusion in every aspect of the event, from the art, music and food that Festival is known for, to the leadership and volunteers behind the scene.

Our Future Plans

As we look ahead to the future of Festival, our strategic plan includes ways to:

  • Broaden our community engagement with emphasis on cultural diversity and a variety of abilities and experiences.
  • Attract artists and performers who reflect our growing community.
  • Attract cultural culinary professionals and local restaurants to add to the Festival food scene, while retaining the diverse nonprofit organizations who operate food booths during the weekend.
  • Innovate our sources of revenue through creative recognition of sponsors, and new opportunities for Festival visitors to support the event.
  • Increase engagement with the community through our website and social media, and build new relationships with community groups and social media influencers.

Festival Board of Directors

Baird Hawkins

Board Chairperson

Interfuse Capital

Jeff Kaczmarczyk

Secretary

Freelance Writer and Community Arts Activist

Eddie Tadlock

Vice Chairperson

Board Governance & Nominating

Jana Wallace

Treasurer

Mark Azkoul

Azkoul Productions

Adrienne Brown-Reasner

SYNERGi Media, Class of 2021

Ken Knight

Valley Truck Parts, Class of 2022

Glenn Del Vecchio

Grand Rapids Ballet

Stephanie Naito

Meijer

Alynn Guerra

Artist Red Hydrant Press

Tom Vitale

Smith Haughey Rice & Roegge

Doug Matthews

City of Grand Rapids