By Chris Powers – Web Editor
This weekend’s Festival of the Arts has a new, long-awaited app developed by Grand Rapids Community College students as part of the college’s experiential learning program.
Festival is a three-day-long event which closes down parts of Ottawa and Monroe Center and features art sales, five stages of live performances and 28 food booths among other activities scattered around downtown Grand Rapids.
The first Festival was held in 1970, inspired by the installation of Alexander Calder’s “La Grande Vitesse,” commonly known in Grand Rapids as simply “the Calder,” in front of City Hall. That first year, no streets were closed and only consisted of one stage and a handful of food booths. The event has grown to encompass most of downtown and attract nearly half a million visitors each year.
Festival attendees have asked for an electronic replacement for their paper event guide to keep track of everything being offered. But because Festival is run entirely by volunteers from the community, this wasn’t something the organizing committee could create.
That is, until GRCC Assistant Professor Drew Rozema volunteered his Mobile Application Development and Security class last semester. The app features a locator map and links to the show schedule and food booth offerings.
Michael Kennedy was one of the student team members who helped bring the product to the public. He appreciated the chance it gave him and his fellow students to give back.
“It was a great project,” Kennedy said. “It was a great opportunity for individuals in our class to go out into the Grand Rapids area and help a nonprofit organization.”
The volunteer spirit of Festival wasn’t lost on Kennedy.
“This project gave us an opportunity to see those (Festival volunteers) at work, and maybe some of it rubbed off on some of us in class,” Kennedy said.
Although it was developed by GRCC students, the app is owned by Festival and it’s unclear who will continue to maintain and update it going forward. The group made sure it would be easy for whoever works on it next.
“This is something that’s going to last for a long time,” Kennedy said.
The 46th annual Festival of the Arts will be held in downtown Grand Rapids and kicks off at noon on Friday, June 5, and the last act takes the Calder Stage at 5:15 p.m. on Sunday, June 7.