Lakeshore Art Festival in downtown Muskegon named one of the top 10 art fairs in the country

Thousands of people fill downtown Muskegon’s streets for the Lakeshore Art Festival. Photo courtesy of the Muskegon Lakeshore Chamber of Commerce

The Lakeshore Art Festival in downtown Muskegon is one of the United States’ best art fairs, according to a new nationwide survey.

The festival, which annually draws about 60,000 people and hundreds of artists to downtown Muskegon, ranked as the ninth best art fair in the country in the “2019 Best Art Fair” survey from ArtFairCalendar.com, a national publication covering juried fine art fairs. The list, which was released last Friday, included events from throughout the U.S., including the Olde Towne Art Fair in Chicago and the Park City Kimball Arts Festival in Park City, Utah. The Muskegon event was the only Michigan fair to be included in the top 10.

“This is another way that Muskegon, Michigan gets put on the map; it shines a really beautiful light on Muskegon,”  Lakeshore Art Festival Director Carla Flanders said of the top 10 list. “We’re standing right next to fairs from Park City, Chicago and other major cities. People say, ‘Muskegon, Michigan? Where’s Muskegon, Michigan?’ We’re here, we’re ranking and we have an amazing show and community.”

Launched in 2013 and following in the footprints of Muskegon Art in the Park, an arts and crafts show that debuted in Hackley Park in 1961, the Lakeshore Art Festival has grown each year, drawing a crowd of artists and attendees from throughout the region—and country. In addition to a wide range of fine art and crafts—think everything from photography and hand-carved jewelry to large-scale sculptures—the two-day whirlwind of creativity offers live music, street performers, artisan food, children’s activities, interactive and community art, and more.

Since its inception, the festival has doubled the number of exhibitors, Flanders noted. Currently, the festival receives about 450 applications for the fair’s 350 spots for artists.

“Because the Lakeshore Art Festival is becoming so recognized, people are making Muskegon a destination,” Flanders said. “It’s people from all over the country who attend the festival.”

The downtown Muskegon festival too has consistently landed national recognition. Sunshine Artist Magazine, for example, has repeatedly put the Lakeshore Art Festival on its top 200 craft shows list; this year, the Muskegon event came in at number 21

For Flanders, the national accolades affirm what she has long known: the festival is a fun community event that helps to support local artists and grow Muskegon’s creative landscape, as well as an event that has generated millions of dollars in direct economic impact in Muskegon County. In 2019, the Lakeshore Art Festival had a direct economic impact of $1.59 million in the county, and has had a $7.2 million economic impact in the county since 2014, according to the  Lakeshore Art Festival Corporate Social Responsibility Report.

“Not only are people spending money on art, they’re spending money at restaurants and other local businesses, including hotels,” Flanders said.

For the out-of-towners who visit the Lakeshore Art Festival, Flanders hopes the visit would inspire them to return.

“If they come to Muskegon for the festival, they may say, ‘Hey, this is a pretty cool town; I’m going to come back and go to Michigan’s Adventure, the Winter Sports Complex, or somewhere else,’” Flanders said. 

This year’s Lakeshore Art Festival, which is free for the general public to attend, will be held July 3 and July 4, 2020 in downtown Muskegon. The event’s theme will be “the art of recycling,” and will include various programming surrounding recycling—including a public art project.

“We’ve been recognized for our green initiatives, and we want to ramp those up,” Flanders said, referring to the festival’s emphasis on recycling and offering refillable water stations to avoid a proliferation of plastic products, among other efforts to be environmentally conscious. “It’s really exciting what we’ll be doing.”

Story by Anna Gustafson. Connect with Anna by emailing MuskegonTimes@gmail.com or on FacebookTwitter and Instagram

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