In 1964, as an answer to street fairs taking place in Ann Arbor, a Michigan State University advertising student began a similar event that allowed art students to exhibit and sell their work. Now in its 47th year, the festival — taking place May 22 and 23 – includes over 200 established artists from across North America, who were chosen by a rigorous jury process.
But it hasn’t lost sight of its roots.
“In recent years, we’ve been focusing on the next generation of artists,” explains festival coordinator Corinn VanWyck. “We have a children’s area that has a lot of handson arts activities, then we have the Doug Delind's raku wood sculpture "Face." Matt Epling middle school arts competition, and then the Emerging Artists program. We have the marketplace of exhibitors selling artwork, but it’s an exhibition as well.”
And for the lucky students chosen for the Emerging Artists program, it’s a chance to get a head start in the difficult industry or professional artistry.
Five students were chosen after sub mitting samples of their work and an artist statement. VanWyck explains that the whole purpose is to take away the somewhat intimidating logistics of costly entry fees or setting up a booth.
“The Emerging Artists program takes away a lot of the pressure for them because they don’t have to make that big investment,” she adds, “not knowing what to expect or knowing if they’re going to make that money back.”
For Becca Sclaff, it is a dream come true. The 28-year-old MSU graduate just completed her master of art education degree this month and is exhibiting to the public for the first time ever at the festival.
“I have always dreamt of showing my work to the public,” Schlaff says. “I've always admired all the artists that participate in festivals and shows, I just never knew how to get my foot in the door.”
Doug Delind, a sculptor from Mason, has been part of the East Lansing Art Festival for 35 years. Now 62, he began selling his art while still in school at MSU, in the time when students still ruled the scene.
A lot has changed since then, Delind says, but he’s happy to see a new generation of artists taking the reins — and learning what a taxing event an art festival can be for exhibitors.
“If somebody’s studying art in college and they think they’re going to make a living out of it, they’ve gotta get out on the street and find out how hard it is,” he says. “It’s incredibly hard.”But worth it, he adds, for the personal interactions he has with the people who purchase and love his art.
so nice to be able to meet the people who buy my work, to be discovered
and to have somebody have that thrill of really liking a piece of
artwork and being able to see it,” he says. “It’s like getting the best
birthday present for your mom — the thing she always wanted. You get
that feeling once in a while, when somebody really loves a piece of
a feeling Schlaff hopes to experience at the festival, too. More than
just selling her work, she wants to inspire people to appreciate beauty
— in art and in life.
hope my artwork takes me to a profession that lends to creating
beautiful images that command a constant investigation, admiration and
respect of the natural world in which we live in,” she muses. “ I would
hope my artwork allows me to meet new people, see new places, and share
my passion for creativity.”
And to continue the tradition of professional artistry.
including young artists in shows we could be losing our future artists
to desk jobs,” Sclaff comments. “The festival experience is great
because you will get to interact with and see the public's responses to
your work in person.”
Delind gets older, seeing younger artists at festivals helps him to
breathe a sigh of relief that love of art, and the festivals that
celebrate it, will not be lost.
“I’d getting old,” he admits with a laugh. “I’d
hate to see it stop. I look around and see that all the other artists
are the same age as I am — it’s an aging group of people.”
But for artists like Sclaff, it’s just the beginning.