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Fourth Annual Festival of the Arts Opens in Big Rapids

Local residents and members of the Ferris State University community are collaborating for the fourth annual Festival of the Arts. The month-long event features workshops and performances by local creative talent as well as visits by artists and innovators of regional and national renown. Artworks will host the festival’s kickoff on Thursday, Jan. 27 at 6 p.m., with a wine and cheese reception catered by the Blue Cow Café.

Grand Rapids Symphony Associate Conductor John Varineau will share remarks at the opening event. Varineau, a celebrated clarinetist, will perform selected musical works with piano accompaniment by his wife, Gwen, as well. The evening also offers visitors the opportunity to view the three-dimensional art of Lake Leelanau’s Tom Krueger, which will be on display at Artworks throughout the Festival. Krueger’s art frequently appears in fairs throughout the Great Lakes region.

The reception is one of many 2011 festival events that are open to the public and free of charge. This year’s celebration offers many opportunities for local and university community members to engage and share their creativity at little or no cost, largely as the result of volunteerism and teamwork on the part of festival supporters from within the Ferris and Big Rapids communities.

“The impulse to create, and to respond to artistic creativity, is ambient and latent in any human community,” said Artworks president and Ferris faculty member Douglas Haneline.

In that spirit, many of the eclectic offerings of this year’s festival are interactive, inviting members of the public to become contestants or hands-on participants. A “Tall Tales of Mecosta County” contest, taking entries until Saturday, Jan. 22, invites members of the public to submit unlikely stories on local themes. A photography contest with a submission deadline of Thursday, Feb. 10, is also open to the public. Both events offer cash prizes for winning entries. A floral arranging workshop at Patterson’s Flowers on Monday, Jan. 31 and a welding art workshop at Ferris on Tuesday, Feb. 1 require participants to register in advance.