21 May 2016

Art Festival each spring in East Lansing

The view north on Abbot Road near Albert Street in East Lansing, Michigan

The city and neighboring campus of Michigan State University has hosted a cultural festival each August since the turn of this century, having taken a 3 year turn as home of the National Folk Festival and then carrying on the same weekend in August under the auspices of Great Lakes Folk Festival. But the middle May festival is for artists to sell and demonstrate their work, with many coming from out of state. Exhibit booth numbers hover around 300 at least. The crush of lookers when the weather is fine, as often it seems to be, can be a little oppressive. But the live music dispersed at several venues on or near the streets, as well as the smells and tastes of the food on offer, above and beyond the brick-and-mortar food fixtures at this intersection of campus and community make the experience of browsing and/or buying pleasant; at least many of the vendors are repeaters for several years.

     Seen from the point of view of material culture and also of aesthetic pleasures, the event is curious, though. While people come to examine the works or art, or to participate under the tents set up for children's crafts and creative work. At springtime the trees, flowering bushes, and variety of flowers are at least as wondrous. And event the diversity of human forms presented for people watching can be a pleasing spectacle. There is abundant color, media, theme, and mix of indoor and outdoor works of art, but one result of making more and more of something is the accumulated results and the need to distribute to willing buyers. In other words, since the beginning of time an artisan, crafts worker, or maker of beautiful decorative (and/or functional) pieces has needed also to be a business person, promoter, trader, and traveler to fairs very often. And for recreational buyers, the articles of wood, metal, fabric, crockery or glass all have durability which means they ultimately end up in an estate sale, bequeathed to heirs, given away, broken or stolen in the course of events, or maybe even be discarded by another generation not enamored of the piece. The joy of the hunter gatherer discovering a delightful thing, the pleasure of purchasing, then owning a piece, the many delights in the days of gazing or passing by the article all are worthy enrichments to one's everyday existence. But what is it exactly that attracts, then motivates a person to acquire a thing beautiful in the sight of their eyes? For some it is gleaming metal, or the natural tones of rude pottery formed from the earth, and for others a clever play of words or imagistic concepts is what tickles the heart. Perhaps as with music, poetry, humor, emotion, religion, politics: to each his or her own.

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