A Friday concert and Saturday songwriting ‘master class’ at Forest Hills Fine Arts Center will launch the expansion of Festival’s mission to spread arts across West Michigan.
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The music credentials are more than impressive.
East Coast pop-rock singer-songwriter Paula Cole is a Grammy Award-winning artist whose Top 10 single “Where Have All the Cowboys Gone?” continues to resonate with fans 25 years after its release.
New York singer and tunesmith Sophie B. Hawkins, meanwhile, made a critical and commercial splash from the get-go in the early 1990s with hits such as “Damn I Wish I Was Your Lover” and “As I Lay Me Down.”
Acclaimed folk singer and fellow New Yorker Lucy Kaplansky, meanwhile, has become a go-to collaborator with genre favorites John Gorka, Nanci Griffith, Dar Williams and Richard Shindell.
Together, these artists aim to make waves for the debut of Grand Rapids’ Festival of the Arts first-ever concert series, kicking off Friday night at Forest Hills Fine Arts Center.
Cole and Hawkins will follow up Friday’s performance with a special songwriting master class on Saturday, designed as “an education opportunity for local musicians and songwriters.”
Mark Azkoul, communications chairman for Festival of the Arts, said launching the “Performance+” concert series and workshop featuring national acts represents a fresh pathway for the half-century-old organization that hosts the annual Festival of the Arts in downtown Grand Rapids in early June.
“Our motivation is to further our strategic plan,” he told Local Spins, adding that Festival hopes the fall concerts will become an annual event.
FUTURE PLANS FOR FOCUSING ON DANCE, FINE ARTS, LITERATURE & MORE
“Festival’s long-term strategy is to extend our presence in the community past the traditional once-a-year first weekend in June. We want to support and bring the arts to western Michigan throughout the year. Bringing in national level performers and adding a songwriting master class component is the ‘plus’ of Performance+.”
Azkoul noted that Cole, Hawkins and Kaplansky were chosen for the inaugural event because they have “a devoted following. They are known as Grammy (level) songwriters as well as performers, so it worked well with the education component of our event.”
Plenty of tickets, $40-$65, remain for Friday’s 7:30 p.m. concert, available online here or at the Fine Arts Center box office, 600 Forest Hill Ave. SE.
But only a few spots remain for Saturday’s 11 a.m. songwriting master class, which also takes place at Forest Hills Fine Arts Center and is limited to 50 people. Sign up online here.
Festival views the first-ever concert event as just the beginning of its expansion efforts, with hopes of focusing on dance, fine arts, literature and children’s events in the future while “bringing in national artists and theatrical groups for workshops. An idea to combine art and food is also in the works,” Azkoul said.
“We want to reach everyone. It’s in Festival’s DNA. I know that seems too tall of a goal, but we have always done that. We began 50 years ago as an event to expose our entire community to all different artistic forms: music, fine art, dance, performance, storytelling, etc.
“We are ‘Art for all.’ ”
VIDEO: Paula Cole at Paste Studio NYC
VIDEO: Sophie B. Hawkins, “Damn, I Wish I Was Your Lover” (29 Years Later)
VIDEO: Lucy Kaplansky, Live at Hawthorne Barn
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