About Festival

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

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.
  • 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 and relationships through our website and social media.

Festival Board of Directors

Melissa Bush

Board Chairperson

Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park

Eddie Tadlock

Vice Chairperson

ASM Global

Glenn Del Vecchio


Grand Rapids Ballet

Jeff Kaczmarczyk


Freelance Writer and Community Arts Activist

Missy Summers

Executive Director

Festival of the Arts

Adrienne Brown-Reasner


Juan Daniel Castro

Corewell Health

Nadeem Hamid

Ocean Inc.

Ken Knight

Valley Truck Parts

Jamie MacLangs

Kent County

Emily Miller

Allendale Public Schools

Stephanie Naito

Meijer Inc.

Evette Pittman

City of Grand Rapids

Paul Skentzos


Bill Warners

Warner Norcross + Judd LLP

Mayor Rosalynn Bliss


Mayor of Grand Rapids