East Lansing Art Festival Withstands State Funding Cuts

By: Lauren Zakalik Email
By: Lauren Zakalik Email

By the sounds, moves and looks of things, the 44th annual East Lansing Art Festival appears to be a success.

"The sun's out, the crowd's great," says festival coordinator Sharon Radtke.

But contrary to appearances, the festival has seen better days.

In March, the Governor froze grant payments to certain agencies-- the festival being one of them. They lost more than $3,000 out of their $160,000 budget: a small percentage but not without impact.

"We had to cut back on the amount on promotions we did," Radtke says.

Not only does that mean less publicity, but higher prices as well. Organizers have had to compensate for the missing money by raising artists' booth fees.

"It affects me largely," says fiber artist Sally Austin of Grand Rapids. Austin makes her living solely on art festivals. Art may be her passion, but she feels less than passionate about where art fairs are headed.

"In the last three years, we've had a steady increase in our expenses and because of the economy, the customers aren't purchasing as much," she says. "So we get it from both ends: higher prices and less sales."

As for next year, the festival's 45th, Radtke says nothing will stop what she calls the "Granddaddy of art fairs."

But as far as funding goes, she says "you can't count on it."

Austin agrees.

"I'm frustrated because I feel like I can't do very much. I don't know, i have to be creative."

Creativity, she says, that's difficult even for an artist.


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