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Wednesday, August 20,2014

The street runneth over

Art fairs pile onto Renegade Festival to create a sensory overload

by Jonathan Griffith
Over the weekend, the Renegade Theatre Festival filled the historic buildings and streets of Lansing’s northern enclave, as it has for the past eight years. Spaces profane and sacred, from Zoobie´s tavern to the Quaker meeting house (and a few galleries in between) hummed with exhibits and performances. There was only one way to shove an art fair into the mix: by taking it to the streets.

The inaugural Art Feast, Old Town’s perfect storm of art and activities, crashed the party in a big way, but stayed safely on the asphalt.

“Our promotions committee has always wanted to do an art fair,” Louise Gradwohl, the outgoing executive director of the Old Town Commercial Association, said. “It was just smart to have it coincide with Renegade. It’s mutually beneficial.”

Art Feast invited artists to set up along the sidewalks of Turner Street, offering everything from henna tattoos to handmade jewelry to Michigan-themed T-shirts to artsy photos and lovable knick-knacks.

Olivia and Nora Gorman, sisters who originally hail from Manistee, were on hand, selling acrylic paintings of nautical creatures, nature-themed crafts and greeting cards. Though they’ve sold pieces at the Wheatland Music Festival in Remus, this was their first fest in Lansing.

“Its been great,” says Olivia of the experience. “We want to do every festival in Old Town now.”

Art was only half the experience at Art Feast. Several regional food trucks were rounded up at the top of Turner St., offering a one-time-only variety of cuisine. Shimmy Shack from South Lyon was on hand with vegetarian and vegan cuisine, joined by artisan fare from Mason’s Good Bites and the slow cooked delights of Lansing’s own Trailer Park’d food truck. For anybody wondering if a “Ballin’ Ass Taco” has any place among, say, the glass sculptures found in the Craig Mitchell Smith Gallery, Gradwohl is full of assurances.

“Food trucks are definitely artistic as well,” she opined.

Art Feast wasn’t the only attempt on Saturday to stuff every nook and cranny of Old Town with entertainment. Old Town General Store held its own art bash, the Off Center Art Festival. Artists filled the garden behind the store and surrounding alleys with a variety of works, including recycled pallet furniture from Jojo Beans Barn and art journals made from repurposed books by Eaton Rapids artist Corey Marie.

How much is enough? It´s an open question for Gradwohl, who wants to see a reprise next year … only bigger.

“More artists, more food trucks,” she intoned, like Polyphemus asking for wine. “People forget how cool our community is and this is a great way to bring in new people.”

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