Groups 'step up a notch' for Fall In ... Art and Sol, Featuring Solar Art Installations, Many Free Events
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Within days, "Fall In … Art and Sol" will kick off a month-long celebration of the arts with a festive day of art, music, theater and even hockey in downtown Saginaw.
A Sept. 28 launch of the festival is centered around Saginaw’s new FirstMerit Bank Event Park.
“If you can’t find anything to do in October, you’re not looking very hard,” said Bay City State Theatre Executive Director Mike Bacigalupo, who’s bringing 12 events to the historic movie house, including Lisa Marie Presley on Oct. 24.
Adding to the “wow” factor is the world’s first solar art festival, a distinction that came after Europe’s financial stumble canceled a planned exhibit in Spain, said Larry Preston, chairman of the Great Lakes Bay Regional Alliance’s Arts and Entertainment Council.
Works created by 20 international, national and regional artists will remain on display through October at sites around Saginaw, Bay, Midland and Isabella counties, including Dow Gardens, Wenona Park and Saginaw Valley State University.
“This is our first year, and festivals do take time to grow,” said Preston, adding the future of Fall In … Art and Sol largely depends on the community’s response.
Organizers and artists alike believe, by raising awareness among residents and visitors, this could become the Great Lakes Bay Region’s ArtPrize.
About 70 arts organizations came together with more than 100 outings, 65 percent of them free. Go to fallin-glbr.com for a complete schedule.
'Great time to explore'
So how does one take all of this in?
“Here’s how I’m going approach it,” said Diana L. Tomlin, director of the festival. “Start by looking at the different solar art locations and picking at least three or four to see for
“Then go to the online calendar and click on a day or a weekend that you have free. Look at the events going on and try something you’ve never done before. This is a great time to explore.”
Just don’t wait until the last minute to get your tickets, Bacigalupo advised.
“Lisa Marie Presley’s show is nearly sold out,” he said. “Collaboration works.”
Tomlin’s excited, too, about the solar art, a process that only emerged in recent years, resulting in works that through solar power produce sound, movement and light. Even schoolchildren have come aboard, creating in their classrooms 1,000 solar lanterns that will adorn the pavilion at FirstMerit Bank Event Park on Sept. 28 and shine in a children’s parade that night.
Until 2011, many of the arts groups that pulled together for "Fall In" had never even officially met in one spot.
Tomlin came aboard in 2012 with some serious festival planning under her belt, including a run at the Smithsonian, “but this one is different,” Tomlin said. “It’s challenging because the borderlines are not defined, but that opens it to a greater variety of events.”
The festival is a showcase of regional events that range from “Dracula, The Musical” at the Midland Center for the Arts and a musical journey to Vienna with the Saginaw Bay Symphony Orchestra to the historic River of Time in Bay City.
Already, Bacigalupo said, venue operators have seen the power of collaboration and the results of the festival’s strong marketing and promotional drive, an important element of its $324,000 budget.
“Lisa Marie Presley would never have come to the State,” he said of the restored Mayan-themed movie house. “But when I told her, ‘Hey, this is what we have going on,’ she wanted to be part of it.
“When we heard the festival was on its way, we stepped things up a notch. I just hope it pays off.”
As Hell’s Half Mile Film and Music Festival in Bay City, the Northwood University International Auto Show in Midland and a baby shower for an expectant alpaca at the Children’s Zoo at Celebration Square in Saginaw puts everything in full swing.
“People within and outside the region will be blown away,” predicted Midland Center for the Arts CEO Mike Hayes.
Great venues, incredible talent
Among the more unusual offerings are “Light From Above – Midland’s Houses of Faith,” a tour of the community’s architecturally interesting churches on Oct. 19, and the Cast Iron Chef Cook-Off, where professionals and others compete for the Golden Spatula on Oct. 12 and 13 in Bay City.
“October is always a good month as orchestras and theater groups begin their seasons," Hayes said. "At the Alden B. Dow Museum of Science and Art, we’re also opening ‘Light as Form,’ an exhibit playing on the solar art theme, and we’re bring in an Israeli folk band, Baladino, on Oct. 17 as part of the Arts Midwest World Fest.”
If festivalgoers like what they see, Hayes said, and arts groups back it up with a strong year, “it could have a lasting impact, but to be honest, that’s yet to be seen.”
Fall In … Art and Sol was a leap of faith, Preston admitted, “but it has taken on a life of its own.”
“If you told me 14 months ago that we’d have these numbers, I wouldn’t believe it possible,” said Preston said.
“A study done by Louise Stevens in 2011 found we had great venues and incredible talent here, but people didn’t know about it. One of her principal recommendations was to find a way to spotlight all that the region offered.”
Saginaw artist Roz Berlin is another who relishes the chance for more to experience her ongoing creation of a fiber-art forest.
“It’s exciting to reinvent it with light, and I’m full of anxiety, wondering if it’s going to work,” she said of “The Forest of Radiant Light – An Interactive Exhibit of Transcendental Beauty,” opening Oct. 4 at Creative 360 in Midland. “But for me, it represents the soul spirit as well as the sol.”