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This year's Festival of the Arts will look a little different

Event organizers said the festival will take place June 4-6, 2021
Credit: Eric Brekfa / 13 OYS
The 2019 Festival of the Arts kicked off at noon in downtown Grand Rapids. This year marks a momentous 50 years for the festival.

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — While 2021 still presents challenges for large community events, organizers of the Festival of the Arts are planning to move forward with this year's event in downtown Grand Rapids. 

This year's theme is PLEIN AIR and the festival will take place June 4-6, 2021. En plein air is French for “outdoors.”

PLEIN AIR by Festival of the Arts expands the original outdoor concept to include musicians and landscape artists within designated social zones and throughout downtown, organizers said. Festival goers will be encouraged to purchase food and drinks from local restaurants and enjoy them in social zones where live art and musical performances will be taking place all weekend long.     

“Many of the traditional Festival activities have been put on hold this year due to the pandemic,” said David Abbott, executive director for Festival of the Arts. “We hope that PLEIN AIR will give the community a chance to see musicians playing and artists working to capture the urban landscape, all while maintaining a safe social distance.”

Event organizers said their team has been working closely with local health officials and the City of Grand Rapids to create an event that is both safe and enjoyable. 

Individual instrumentalists will be hired to perform during Plein Air weekend. Applications for artists, musicians, and the virtual Regional Arts exhibition will open in March.  

The Regional Arts Exhibition will be coordinated virtually this year and available to view at festivalgr.org with more than $10,000 to be awarded to outstanding local artists. 

The festival’s iconic Calder Plaza performance stage and artisan village will be rescheduled for September 17-19, 2021, which is the first weekend of ArtPrize.

The details of the September live performance stage on Calder Plaza specifically are being consistently reviewed with the City of Grand Rapids and the Kent County Health Department to insure a safe and successful event for the community, organizers said. 

The social distancing required to prevent the spread of COVID-19 forced the cancellation of the 2020 Festival of the Arts, but as more people have learned how to manage social distancing, and giving more time for participants to be vaccinated, festival leadership believes a later 2021 live performance and artisan village event is prudent.

“The safety of our valued volunteers, artists, performers, contributors, and the gathered audience remains the center of every decision we’ve made regarding Festival of the Arts providing a live ‘in person’ event,” said David Abbott, Executive Director of the Festival of the Arts. “We certainly expect there to still be COVID-19 safety precautions in place this September. The arts leadership in Grand Rapids has learned a great deal on how to mitigate risk and still celebrate the awesome arts of the community. Trust that our leadership will be vigilant about a safe and successful live event in September."

For more information and updates on the festival, visit festivalgr.org


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