Festival of the Arts Announces Honorary Co-Chairs for 51st Year

Festival of the Arts is excited to announce its honorary co-chairs for the event’s 51st year – Grand Rapids Symphony’s President Mary Tuuk, Music Director Marcelo Lehninger, and Associate Conductor John Varineau. For the next year, the three will serve as ambassadors for the community-wide celebration of arts and culture that returns in June 2020.

Festival of the Arts unveiled the appointment on Friday, June 7, the first day of the three-day, showcase of art, music, dance and more, including a performance by the Grand Rapids Youth Symphony under conductor John Varineau.

The Grand Rapids Symphony’s leadership team follows the Grand Rapids Ballet’s Glenn Del Vecchio, Executive Director, and James Sofranko, Artistic Director, who served as honorary co-chairs for the 50th anniversary Festival of the Arts.

The run up to Festival of the Arts 2020 coincides with the Grand Rapids Symphony’s 90th anniversary season in 2019-20.

“I’m thrilled to have Grand Rapids Symphony back for Festival of the Arts in 2020 and to have their leaders involved as honorary co-chairs,” said David Abbott, Executive Director for Festival of the Arts. “Festival remains grateful for the Youth Symphony for their continued performance and looks forward to the professional company joining in on the fun.”

“Marcelo is already formulating some surprises that we know will wow the community,” Abbott said.

Mary Tuuk, a Grand Rapids native and Calvin College graduate, joined the Grand Rapids Symphony as President and CEO earlier this year following a long career in banking for Fifth Third Bank and in retail for Meijer, Inc.

Marcelo Lehninger, a native of Brazil, is completing his third season as Music Director of the Grand Rapids Symphony. Last year, he led the Grand Rapids Symphony in its critically acclaimed return to New York City for a performance in Carnegie Hall.

John Varineau, who is in his 34th season on the conducting staff of the Grand Rapids Symphony, has served as conductor of the Grand Rapids Youth Symphony for the past 31 seasons.

“Festival of the Arts has a special place in our hearts as it does in yours as well,” Tuuk said. “Since childhood, I’ve known that, in Grand Rapids, summer in the city truly begins with Festival.”

Fifty years ago, Alexander Calder’s 43-foot tall, 42-ton stabile, “La Grande Vitesse,” was installed in downtown Grand Rapids as the fledgling National Endowment for the Arts’ first work of public art. Former Congressman Gerald R. Ford, who later became 38th President of the United States, was instrumental in securing the $45,000 grant in 1967.

For its dedication on June 14, 1969, the Grand Rapids Symphony performed music by George Gershwin and Charles Ives, and the orchestra gave the premiere performance of a piece titled “Inaugural Fanfare” commissioned for the occasion by Aaron Copland.

The Grand Rapids Symphony or its musicians, performing as soloists or in smaller ensembles, have been a part of Festival of the Arts for most of the past five decades. Next year, musicians of the orchestra will perform in some capacity for the annual event that’s open for free to the entire community.

The Board of Directors of Festival of the Arts last year decided to follow a new process for honorary co-chairs beginning with Grand Rapids Ballet’s Del Vecchio and Sofranko. In order to re-connect with the arts institutions of the region, Festival is looking to select leaders from partnering arts institutions in future years. The honorary co-chairs will serve as ambassadors to the community encouraging engagement for the event and also serve as conduit to all the other arts institutions in the region for solicitation of performers and artists.

About Festival of the Arts

Festival of the Arts, held each year on the weekend following the first Friday of June, returns June 5, 6 and 7, 2020. The three-day, family friendly event, remains free and features several stages of performances taking place all day, a juried arts exhibition, and dozens of food booths run by local non-profit organizations. Festival also offers creative activities for children and adults to enjoy with opportunities to make your own art or purchase art from many West Michigan artists. For more information visit festivalgr.org or check out Festival of the Arts on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram