UP & DOWN THE RIVER: Festival showcases the power of art

Up and downThe 2014 edition of the Big Rapids Festival of the Arts demonstrated quite profoundly during the month of February the power of art.

When you stop to consider the depth of the winter we have been living through here in central Michigan, the opportunities presented by the FOTA become much more than just events to attend on a calendar.

Yes, the snow was deep – and got deeper — during February, but that did not stop concert attendees from being transported out of the cold and snow by both vocal and instrumental music.

We may have been sitting in our seats with our boots and woolies on, but our spirits were lifted by toe-tapping jazz, luscious a cappella harmony, and soaring operatic arias.

The larger instrumental ensemble concerts literally swept their audiences away with their performances. The power of music to lift humans out of whatever doldrums they are in is nothing short of amazing. And even when, after all the applause and encores, we rewrapped our scarves, zipped up our heavy jackets, and disappeared under our fuzzy hats, our hearts carried in them the memories and vibrations of that music, and we were warm pretty much all the way home.

The many FestLab experiences and other workshops provided the same winter tonic. When we focus on something new, be it welding, flower arranging, knitting, poetry, glass beads, photography or guitar playing, we experience that wonderful “temporary amnesia” about how cold and snowy it is outside, and bask in the warmth of learning something new. The companionship of others on the same journey is comforting and inspiring as well.

The theatrical productions also supplied a welcome respite from the reality of February. When the house lights go down and the fantasy of the stage begins, even the seat of a cold folding chair doesn’t detract from the illusion playing out in front of the audience.

And “Peter vs the Wolf” offered just the right balance of make-believe and music, delighting the entire auditorium. The foreign film series took its audiences out of the country, and the dance opportunities gave a good nose-thumbing to Old Man Winter as well.

This year’s festival didn’t just “beat the winter blues,” it erased them, albeit temporarily. And that is the heart of the power of the arts: to transport us, take us away, open a new window or door to the creative human spirit which all the presenters shared with their grateful audiences. A huge thank you to all the sponsors, organizers and presenters, for giving the Big Rapids area something very special to help us endure and survive the winter of 2014.

Up and Down the River is sponsored by Artworks, a project partially funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities through Michigan Humanities Council.

The Artworks office is located at 106 N. Michigan Ave., in Big Rapids. President is Alice Bandstra; Jennifer Locke, executive director; Pat Heeter, gallery team leader; and Cathy Johnson, editor.

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