Art competition participant Emma Eagle of Mason works on a Michigan-themed picnic table at last year's Art Attack.
Ty Forquer/City Pulse

If you’ve eaten at REO Town eateries Good Truckin’ Diner or Saddleback BBQ, you’ve probably noticed the colorful picnic tables out front. Those tables are a result of last year’s REO Town ART Attack, which returns for its sixth year Saturday. Since its inception, the event has transformed from a semi-spontaneous bout of fun to a yearly tradition.

"We're feeling really good," said Ryan Wert, executive director of the REO Town Commercial Organization. "This is the first year that nobody is stressed out about it at all."

The event started with a group of artists looking for a lighthearted competition. Wert and the Commercial Association used their resources to turn the competition into a festival.

"I run a recording studio, so I have music connections," said Wert, who also owns Elm Street Recording. "We pulled together what we could with the people that we knew."

The competition portion of the festival, the Showdown, involves teams of artists who spend the day painting and decorating something that will adorn the city. This year, for the first time, the Showdown is divided between youth and adult teams. The adult teams decorate picnic tables that will stay in REO Town, while the youth teams decorate barrels to be placed over steam vents throughout the city. The resulting pieces are judged by a panel of artists, and cash prizes are doled out to the top three in each category.

"The first year, we had no idea what we were doing," Wert said. "At the end of the day, we said, 'Well, it was an event.' The third time was the first year we had our feet under us and felt like we knew what we were doing."

The event also features live music, art vendors and food trucks. Headlining this year's music lineup is the Patient Zeroes, a rock duo based out of Denver and originally from Lansing. Other performers include hip-hop artists Jahshua Smith and Sareem Poems.

At least 18 art vendors offer booths for interested shoppers, including jewelers, ceramicists, painters and t-shirt designers. The lineup also includes representatives from the Nyaka AIDS Orphans Project, which sells products to benefit youth in Uganda who have lost parents to AIDS.

Hungry visitors can head to REO Town restaurants Saddleback BBQ and Good Truckin' Diner or grab something from Pie Hole Pizza Truck, Mark's Gourmet Dogs' hot dog stand or MI Pops' popsicle stand. Red Cedar Spirits and Midtown Brewing Co. are teaming up this year to offer a bar featuring beers and cocktails.

Since Art Attack’s third year, REACH Studio Art Center has coordinated participating art competitors and vendors. The studio, which offers art classes for children and adults, provides activities for kids during the festival.

"It just continues to grow and get larger every year," said Joy Baldwin, program director at REACH. “It's our family of artists here in REO Town."

REO Town Art Attack

Noon-9 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 10 FREE REO Town (Washington Avenue between Elm and South streets), Lansing (517) 487-1910, reotownartattack.com

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