Grand Rapids African American Art and Music Festival returns with cultural marketplace, auction

GRAND RAPIDS – The community is encouraged to attend the Grand Rapids African American Arts and Music Festival downtown on Saturday and enjoy a variety of food, artisans and entertainment.

The event starts at 10 a.m. Saturday, Sept. 17 at Celebration Cinema Studio Park, 123 Ionia Ave. SW. Studio Park has been the site for the last three years. For more than four decades, it was held downtown on Calder Plaza or Martin Luther King Jr. Park on the city’s Southeast Side.

“We didn’t know where things were going to be with the COVID-19 pandemic, so we made the decision to book Studio Park again,” said Lisa Knight, board chair for the Grand Rapids African American Arts and Music Festival.

This year, the festival will have new activities and attractions, including highlighting a Black, Indigenous and People of Color (BIPOC) Pop-Up Shop.

The pop-up shop, open from 12 p.m. to 6 p.m., will feature local BIPOC-owned vendors in the Alligator Alley next to the Van Andel Arena and on Oakes Street.

Organizers say the event creates an opportunity for diverse vendors to sell their wares to thousands of visitors traveling to Grand Rapids for ArtPrize.

“We’re excited to offer local diverse business owners the opportunity to gain exposure to visitors coming downtown for two high-traffic festivals,” said Omar Cuevas, co-chair of the Community Inclusion Group and Grand Rapids Chamber of Commerce Vice President of Investor and Corporate Relations.

“We’re also thrilled to provide a variety of offerings to festival attendees to contribute to inclusivity during one of the busiest weekends of the year.”

A ribbon cutting for the BIPOC Pop-Up Shop will take place at 3 p.m. Saturday at the entry of Alligator Alley.

Besides the marketplace, festivalgoers will also have a chance to view live painters painting some of the live music acts.

The paintings will be auctioned off during the event, with all proceeds going towards the festival organization and the artists themselves.

“The event is an opportunity for people to come and engage with one another and enjoy the day,” Knight said. “Everybody is a big attraction. We want to keep that commitment going for our community.”

Other activities during the event include a kid’s area, a Virtual Reality performance, dance performances and an opportunity to register to vote.

More information about the festival can be found at facebook.com/graaamf.

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