More than Five Decades of Arts and Culture
History of Festival
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.
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
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.
- 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.
- Innovate our sources of revenue through creative recognition of sponsors and partnerships.
- Increase community engagement through our website and social media, and build new relationships with community groups.
Festival Board of Directors
Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park
Freelance Writer and Community Arts Activist
Festival of the Arts
Juan Daniel Castro
Glenn Del Vecchio
Grand Rapids Ballet
Valley Truck Parts
Allendale Public Schools
Mitchell Realty/Bellaby Realty
City of Grand Rapids
Warner Norcross + Judd LLP
Mayor Rosalynn Bliss
Mayor of Grand Rapids