“We’ve been looking forward to this for a very long time.” said Julia Haan, a member of the festival’s organizing committee.
For 30 years, East Lansing has played host to the Women In The Arts Festival, a two-day showcase that honors women in the creative arts community and displays the work of regional female artists, performers and poets. To celebrate the anniversary, festival organizers have put together what they hope will be their largest event yet.
“This festival has become so important for performance and creative artists in the area,” Haan said. “With this being our 30th year, we really wanted to do something to honor them.”
This year’s festival will boast one of the festival’s largest artist markets, with over 40 booths featuring everything from paintings and photographs to jewelry and glassware. In addition to the artist booths, festival organizers have allocated space for Lansing area nonprofits that focus on serving women. The festival’s Sistrum Café serves up meals and snacks both days of the festival.
“One thing I really wanted to accomplish this year was to make more connections with artists, galleries, studios and anyone in our region with an appreciation for these kinds of works,” Haan said. “I’m excited about the nonprofit partnerships as well. Being able to give these organizations space will hopefully give them some visibility to women who may not have known they were available.”
Each year, the Women in the Arts Festival committee puts together an array of local and national musical talent to provide the entertainment for the weekend. This year, the committee teamed up with local folk music promoter the Ten Pound Fiddle to co-produce the weekend’s concert stages. New England-based singer/ songwriter Cheryl Wheeler headlines the Friday night main stage.
“I am very much looking forward to performing,” said Wheeler. “Any time I have played a women’s festival, there has been such a different vibe, some sort of energy running through the crowd and attendees. I just really like the feel of a women’s festival show.”
Since 1986, Wheeler has turned out a signature blend of intellectually driven folk ballads and humorous social critiques. Wheeler’s fans have even given names to these two facets of her performing persona: “Poet Cheryl” and “Comic Cheryl.”“The world being a hilarious place, it always made sense to have a little light-heartedness in my performances, especially when engaging the audience,” Wheeler said. “I never wanted to feel different from anyone at my shows, like I was on some higher level than the audience. So sharing stories on stage and talking to fans really helps break down that barrier.”
Taking the stage Saturday afternoon are four Michiganbased groups: Scary Women, a rock ‘n’ roll quartet out of Lansing; Sistrum, a Lansing women’s chorus and co-sponsor of the festival; Kate Peterson, a Lansing resident and half of the nationally recognized folk duo Nervous But Excited; and Jane of Arc, an acoustic indie-pop duo from Ferndale.
Saturday’s slate of entertainment concludes with a showing of “The Topp Twins: Untouchable Girls.” The documentary tells the story of entertainers Jools and Lynda Topp, comedic country singing lesbian twin sisters.
Women In The Arts Festival
Friday night concert with Cheryl Wheeler, 8 p.m. Friday, Nov. 13 (Artist market opens at 5 p.m. and festival café opens at 5:30 p.m.) $20/$18 Ten Pound Fiddle members/$5 students
Saturday events (see web for full schedule) 10 a.m.-7 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 14 $5 Edgewood United Church, 469 N. Hagadorn Road, East Lansing witafestival.com