All's Fair in Art and Crafts: Time to hit the lakeshore for fine art

Every summer, set along boardwalks, in waterfront parks and on closed-off city blocks, art fairs take over the lakeshore with handcrafted jewelry, paintings, pottery, photography, sculpture and much more.

Going back as far as 60 years, these fine art and craft shows are a fixture of the community drawing tourists, local residents and art aficionados alike. They offer an eclectic mix of art — whether you want to wear it, hang it on the wall or display it in the yard.

Many of West Michigan’s art fairs annually rank among Sunshine Artist magazine’s “200 Best Fine Art and Fine Craft Fairs.” They also help support working artists, many of whom travel across the country to sell their work during the summer.

The festivals double as juried shows with cash prizes, and organizers continue to revamp the application and selection process to bring high-quality exhibitors to the region. Plus, they provide fun for all ages and include food vendors, children’s activities and live entertainment.

Lakeshore Art Festival

Lakeshore Art Festival, held for many years in conjunction with Muskegon Summer Celebration, was revamped and rebranded in 2013 by Muskegon Lakeshore Chamber of Commerce. With more than 300 exhibitors, the July 6-7 art festival encompasses several blocks in downtown Muskegon and is expanding due to increased interest.

“Part of it is tradition,” said Carla Flanders, Lakeshore Art Festival director. “People plan their vacations around that week, especially in our market because we are on the lakeshore, and because people just love to get that one unique piece they say they got at a fine art and craft show.”

A record number of nearly 450 exhibitors applied for this year’s festival. All of the artists go through a juried application process and all items must be handcrafted. Half are from Michigan and the other half come from throughout the country.

“We had 122 more applicants, which was pretty cool,” she said. “We like to have our favorites, but we also like to intermingle new people so we get something fresh and new every year.”

The fine art exhibitors set up in Hackley Park for the judged show held during the event, with awards ranging from $200 to $1,000.

“Inside Hackley Park, we have really kind of raised the bar for the fine art, fine craft category and we are really pleased we are bringing artists from all over the country to this event,” Flanders said.

During the fair, the park has a craft beer and wine garden and a stage with live music. In the blocks surrounding, along Western and Clay and connecting to Muskegon Farmers Market, patrons can find specialty craft and yard items, food vendors, children’s activities, a tent with Michigan authors, street performers and interactive art stations.

The festival aims to be a celebration of the arts and includes two new community components. The Door Project — a collaborative effort of festival organizers, Muskegon Area Intermediate School District and Nuveen Center — has 15 local schools decorating and painting refurbished doors on display at various locations during the festival. Attendees can help paint a door at stations near Third and Western, and they will be sold to help benefit local art programs.

The Kayak Sculpture Public Art Project is set for unveiling July 5, the night before the festival opens. KL Outdoor — the world’s largest kayak manufacturer, headquartered in Muskegon — donated the kayaks, which seven area artists used to create sculptures. Visitors can spot them throughout downtown until early September.

West Shore Art Fair

Ludington’s West Shore Art Fair is celebrating a milestone — 50 years — and attracts large crowds thanks to people vacationing over the July 4th holiday. The fine art fair takes place July 7-8 in Rotary Park, featuring more than 100 jury-selected fine artists working with clay, fiber, glass, jewelry, paint, photography, sculpture and more.

Ludington’s population swells in the summer and it has one of the state’s busiest parks, but it’s also a fun day trip for people in surrounding communities.

“There is a group of people who truly appreciate the arts and want to support the artists,” said Sheila Preston, West Shore Art Fair event coordinator. “And there’s something special about meeting the person who made it.”

Though the art fair was originally started by Ludington Art League, Ludington Area Center for the Arts took it over in 2012 and maintains strict guidelines for accepting artists, Preston said. It’s the major fundraiser for the art center, and organizers this year are awarding first-place prizes of $200 each in 10 categories. Besides applying to attend, artists are then judged during the event.

“We thought it was a good year to give more money back to the artists and appreciate their individual talents, and judge against their category peers rather than every artist there,” she said.

The art fair includes art demonstrations, live entertainment, food vendors and a children’s art area.

White Lake Arts & Crafts Festival

Kicking off the art fair schedule from June 16-17, White Lake's Arts & Crafts Festival is celebrating 40 years and annually draws thousands to the White Lake area over Father’s Day weekend.

More than 75 artists are setting up in Whitehall’s Goodrich Park. Exhibitors feature a variety of handmade art and crafts, such as jewelry, wood furniture, birdhouses, ceramics, items for the garden, paintings and prints, folk art, stained glass, signs, and children’s toys. When not shopping, attendees can listen to live music, enjoy root beer floats, kettle corn and crepes, and relax under the trees at Goodrich Park.

Grand Haven Art Festival

Grand Haven Art Festival ushers in the official start of summer as Washington Avenue closes to traffic and becomes an outdoor art gallery. Held 10 a.m.-5 p.m. on June 23-24, shoppers can visit downtown stores while exploring the fine art exhibitors and talking to artists set up for several blocks. The weekend festivities include entertainment, free family fun and children’s craft activities, or visit the beach, walk the boardwalk and stay for the musical fountain.

South Haven Art Fair

Commemorating its 60th year, South Haven Art Fair is the longest-running event in the region. This year’s fine arts fair runs June 30-July 1 in Stanley Johnston Park, a wooded park setting near Lake Michigan, and features 120 artists, Michigan food, the Casco Band and 40,000 attendees.

In 1958, the South Haven Art League held its first outdoor show. Today, the fair is organized by the South Haven Center for the Arts and kicks off South Haven’s Fourth of July festivities.

Krasl Art Fair

For art fair faithfuls, it’s worth the drive to St. Joseph for Krasl Art Fair on the Bluff. The 57th annual festival, held July 14-15, attracts fine art and craft artists from across the country and Canada.

One of the most popular events in southwest Michigan, the art fair draws an estimated 50,000 attendees and has been in the Top 20 art fairs in Sunshine Artist Magazine for five years running. Shoppers can explore the work of 200 of the nation’s top artists in scenic Lake Bluff Park, enjoy outdoor sculpture and exhibitors, gourmet food trucks, a beer and wine garden, live music, and a kids zone and take in a summer afternoon along the waterfront.