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Wednesday, September 4,2013

Plan of attack

REO Town art festival enters year three

by ALLAN I. ROSS
The shuttering of Art Alley may have dampened the local culture scene, but you wouldn’t know it if you find yourself in REO Town this Saturday. Nine bands and a sixhour themed art competition will keep the newly renovated historic district pumping with music, food, craft beer and, yes, art.

“It’s more than a coincidence that Art Attack! is in very close proximity to Art Alley,” festival coorganizer Paul Holland said. “The genesis of this event was a meeting held there in 2011 to come up with an idea for an art contest. Now here we are two years later, with a full slate of music performances, a beer tent and a variety of art activities and vendors. I can’t even say that the contest is the centerpiece of the festival anymore.”

It may not be the headliner, but that contest — called Showdown in REO Town — is still a strong supporting player. Holland said he and the event’s co-organizers, Ryan Wert and James Groves, worked out a deal with the Ingham County Land Bank to reclaim materials from demolished houses. They then give participating artists access to the wreckage to gather materials to turn them into art, which has a new theme every year. This year, fittingly, it’s “Facelift Face-Off,” in honor of the recent streetscape renovation and BWL plant opening.

“When we started Art Attack!, it was tough trying to find enough artists to participate in the contest,” Holland said. “Now we’ve got them approaching us. It’s humbling.”

Last year, Art Attack! debuted a beer tent with a few offerings. Holland said this year the festival is opening wider beer section, including what could be the Lansing area’s next microbrewery. The event will feature the first public appearance of brews made by local craft beer makers Matt Jason and Jeremy Sprague, cofounders of the proposed Sleepwalker Spirits and Ale. Sprague, a local musician, said Art Attack! will be a vital way of raising his future company’s profile, and could help him attain the final group of investors needed to reach his financial goal. He said he hopes for a spring 2014 opening on Lansing’s east side.

There will also be a full day of live music, featuring bands hailing from around the area. The headlining act will be Lansing Unionized Vaudeville Spectacle. There will also be children’s activities provided by REACH Art Studio.

“Best of all, we’re back at our original location in the heart of REO Town,” Holland said. “Last year’s construction forced us to move (to the district’s north end), which provided a number of challenges. But even with the closing of Art Alley, we want to reinforce the idea that REO Town isn’t just a place to buy art — it’s a place where people go to experience and create art. This is where the artists live and we want everyone to feel like they’re part of the experience.”

Third Annual REO Town Art Attack!

Noon-9 p.m. Saturday 1123 S. Washington Ave., Lansing FREE reotownartattack.com

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