East Lansing Art Festival returns with full lineup and virtual offerings

EAST LANSING – The East Lansing Arts Festival will return for its 59th year this month, bringing 171 artists to downtown for the two-day event.

This year’s festival – a return to normal after last year’s small event, which was postponed until August – will also feature live performances, a large-scale floral art installation and a space demonstration of techniques such as pottery throwing and VR art software.

Heather Majano has been running the festival for three years now, through 2020’s fully online version and last year’s half lineup. She said the team was thrilled to be done with having to pivot.

While this year will have the full lineup of artists, that doesn’t mean the complete end of online offerings. Virtual-only programming includes poetry readings and artist interviews.

“We’ve learned a lot over the past two years, and we’re moving forward,” Majano said.

The festival offers new artists a booth experience

For Morgan Patterson, this year’s festival will be her first as an exhibiting artist rather than a participant.

Patterson, 28, has taken her wood mosaic work seriously for five years while working as a data analyst at Michigan State University. She grew up going to ELAF and this year decided to apply as an Emerging Artist, a program that provides a platform and booth experience for local newcomers.

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“I didn’t know when the deadline was. I looked and it was the same day that I applied,” she said. “I kind of threw it in there like, ‘If that happens, that would be great. If it doesn’t, you know, there’s always next year.'”

Some of Morgan Patterson's works ahead of the East Lansing Art Festival.  Patterson is one of the emerging artists selected by the festival.

Fourteen artists applied for the show’s roster of emerging artists this year, an increase from the usual three or four that required more demanding organization. An anonymous jury of local art experts rated the work. The eight highest-rated contestants, including Patterson, were invited to show their work at the festival.

Since entering, she has been working to prepare her inventory, vying for a 35-piece collection that includes wall art, trays, ornaments and furniture. Some of this work is Michigan-themed, which she says won’t hurt when trying to sell pieces.

Morgan Patterson poses with two pieces she made for the upcoming East Lansing Art Festival.  Patterson is one of the festival's emerging artists.

Preparing for the festival means lots of shopping at the hardware store and hours of cutting, coloring, gluing and batch framing his pieces in the living room and garage of his one-bedroom apartment.

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She said it was easy to doubt when she saw artists online with huge social media followings and expectations of working in front of audiences at a festival.

“I love the work I do,” Patterson said. “But sometimes the thinking is, are people going to think this is art? It’s like I could fit into that category too?”

The goal of the program is to combat that doubt, Majano said.

“A lot of start-up artists have impostor syndrome, they don’t feel like they’re really artists,” she said. “But when they come to the festival, they are empowered.”

Inside Festival Season

Lansing couple Steph Joy and Daniel J. Hogan, both artists, share space at the Cedar Street Art Collective. Things can get a little hectic when festival season approaches and the two of you get ready.

Home stretching tasks include framing or matting finished work ready for sale, ordering limited edition prints, and restocking what’s sold best at trade shows previous ones.

Daniel, who works for the state, has found a niche selling his whimsical cartoon to East Lansing. Artist aisles at comic conventions mostly wanted dollar sketches or fan art, but its quirky, lighthearted visual storytelling hits best here. ELAF is usually its best festival of the year in terms of sales. The atmosphere of college town is an elevator, he says.

Artist Daniel J. Hogan in his workspace, talks about his inspiration wall Tuesday, May 10, 2022.

“It’s more of an open audience for more original things that I do,” he said. “There are different perspectives on what art is or what people like, which helps.”

The Hogans, who were both emerging artists in previous years at the East Lansing Art Festival, know it’s hard to gain confidence as an artist. Steph attributes her comfort to her daily job selling fine jewelry. The gig allowed him to look someone in the eye and say that a painting costs $3,000.

Steph Joy Hogan talks about sharing an art space with husband Daniel J. Hogan at Cedar Street Art Collective on Tuesday, May 10, 2022.

Like Patterson, Steph grew up going to ELAF. She enjoys being part of inspiring future artists as she was when she was a child.

“Being able to participate on the artist side, in my home region, is just special to me,” she said.

How to attend

When: The festival will take place from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on May 21 and from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on May 22.

Or: The festival is located in downtown East Lansing on Albert Avenue between Abbot Road and Bailey Street with a few artist booths one block from MAC Avenue. Parking is available between Albert and Grand River Avenues, with more locations on the festival’s online site map.

Price: It’s technically free to attend, but many artists will have work to sell. It’s best to keep some cash on hand in case something is too good to pass up.

Contact journalist Annabel Aguiar at [email protected] Follow her on Twitter @annabelaguiar.

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Reggie S. Williams