Festival of the Arts Includes Faith-Based Options

Written by Terry DeBoer on . Posted in Local

perryGerald Perry (center) and United Voices of Worship The annual Festival of the Arts in downtown Grand Rapids is celebrating its 48th anniversary June 2-4. And the huge volunteer event comes with a variety of chances to hear a full stylistic range of inspirational music free of charge.

And of course, there are also those church-hosted booths which sell luscious food items while raising funds for their various ministries.

Local gospel singer-songwriter Gerald Perry knows the festival well. "I've sung there for a long time – from my days with the Bethel Pentecostal Choir," said Perry, who in his formative years sang with the noted church group.

These days Perry, 47, is leading United Voices of Worship (UVOW), an ensemble he founded and directs. Their performance will be 9:15pm Fri. June 2 on the Calder Stage.

The group will perform several of Perry's original songs, including "That Name," a worshipful composition extolling the name of Jesus.
The Kentwood resident said the chance to perform before a diverse crowd keeps him coming back each year. "It's another opportunity to reach a lot of people who don't go to church every Sunday, and to minister to and reach the lost as well as encourage believers."


Perry will also be performing with his church choir – The Lighthouse Full Life Center Mass Choir of Grand Rapids (6pm Sat. on the Calder Stage). He will be directing the choir for at least one of his original songs. His sister Deborah is a musical director at the church, pastored by Bishop Marvin Sapp.

Gerald has tailored his recent music for UVOW – an 8 to 10 voice group which at Festival will be performing with a full band and horn section in its contemporary style.

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"With some of these new songs, I'm excited and nervous at the same time," he said.

Meanwhile, Gerald's sister Deborah Perry (a Grand Rapids music teacher and head of the local Joint Heir Music Studio) performs with her group Majestic Praise at 4pm Sat. on the Kendall Stage.

Among other Christian vocal groups: Heritage Voices of Praise (8:30pm Fri. Kendall Stage), New Voices of Grace (3:15pm Sat. City Stage) and Souled Out Worship Collective (12:15pm Sun. on Kendall Stage).

Area Christian music bands return this year, all of these on the Kendall Stage: Carpenter's Cross (1pm Fri.), Perfect Shelter 10:45am Sun.) and Alive (2 p.m. Sat.).

Continuing its tradition of closing out the weekend performances Sunday on the Calder Stage will be One Church Empowerment Center (formerly Bethel Pentecostal) at 5:30pm.

Elsewhere, inspirational dance is offered: The Expressions of Praise Christian Dance Arts Academy is set for 10am Sat. on the Calder Stage; and HIS Dance Academy 1:15pm Sun. on Kendall Stage.

For the complete schedule of performances, visit online.


Nearly a dozen of this year's 26 Festival food booths are sponsored by churches or faith-based organizations, raising funds for their various programs and operations.

Some churches are there every year. Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church and its Greek souvlacki and baklava will be set up on Ottawa Ave. selling its grilled fare. Plymouth Congregational is serving up an "All American Picnic" menu featuring foot-long hot dogs.

Another longtime "Festival church" is Georgetown United Methodist with a Dutch-American treat of waffle cones with seven different flavors of ice cream.

Ethnic food still carries the day at the annual arts gathering.

Lebanese shawarma sandwich (beef and lamb in pita bread) is the main item served by St. George Antiochian Church. The Living Water Christian Reformed Church, a Korean ethnic congregation, is offering a Korean-Fusion food item – Korean tacos! They'll be set up on Pearl St. east of Ottawa.

How about your trinitarian choice of chicken, pork or cheese tamales? Try the Light of the World Church booth on Ottawa Ave.
The St. Isadore Benevolent Aid Society has Polish burritos and Golumpki (stuffed cabbage).

A full list of food booths is available online.


Of course, Festival is more than music and food. There are artistic activities for the whole family. Both indoor and outdoor venues have poetry, storytelling and even films.

The Glue-In and Paint-In areas are popular with kids.

Admission is also free to The Festival Regional Art Exhibition, a juried show, featuring the works of West Michigan's finest artists. There's also a Youth Art Exhibit, and art sales tents right on the Calder Plaza.

Complete information on Festival of the Arts is available at www.festivalgr.org.
Author Information
Terry DeBoer
Terry is journalist who writes for newspapers, magazines, newsletters and websites. His most frequented “beat” is arts and entertainment. He is married with two children and lives in Grand Rapids.

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