Headliners announced for Dogwood Fine Arts Festival

Published 12:09 pm Friday, March 4, 2016

Organizers with Dowagiac’s annual celebration of the arts are keeping things close to home for this year’s silver anniversary event.

Volunteers with the Dogwood Fine Arts Festival announced the lineup of featured artists for this year’s upcoming festival Wednesday evening, which takes place from May 5-15. During the 25th anniversary of the annual springtime event, many of the faces featured during the 10-day festival will share a common distinction — a connection to the Great Lakes State.

The major artists included in this year’s lineup are:


Starfish Circus

The first group of performers will be familiar to many in the community — as they will be comprised of students from throughout Dowagiac.

Aerial Angels, a renowned acrobatics performing group based out of Kalamazoo, will be bring their Starfish Circus show to the Grand Old City for two nights, on May 5 and 6.

However, the dancers with the group won’t be the ones featured in the spotlight. Instead, they will be teaching participating students from the local school district how to perform an array of high-flying dance moves through an intensive two-week course, culminating in the two performances on stage at the performing arts center.

“We have a program that is going to be exciting and fun,” said Jim Benedix, president of the Dogwood Board of Directors. “I think it’s something where the kids will have fun, everyone will have a good time…and we’ll have EMTs there for the mothers who have a heart attack, because when mom sees their kids up high like that, they’re going to flip.”


Poet James P. Lenfestey and Novelist Mardi Jo Link

For the 25th anniversary of the oldest of all Dogwood events, organizers are delivering double the goods.

This year, the festival will feature two authors: James P. Lenfestey, the Poet in Residence at Mackinac Island’s famed Grand Hotel, and Mardi Jo Link, a true crime novelist who hails from Traverse City. The two authors will give lectures back to back, then will share the stage together as they sit down and answer questions from an interview, Benedix said.

Another major change is that the author event will take place inside the smaller confines of Southwestern Michigan College’s Dale A. Lyons Building theater, a more appropriate venue for the atmosphere the festival is trying to create for the talk, Benedix said.

“It will be an opportunity for us to be in an intimate setting, listening to the authors and feeling like we’re sitting in the living room with them in a conversation,” he said.

Lenfestey is author of “Seeking the Cave: A Pilgrimage to Cold Mountain,” a personal and lively journey to the cave where legendary hermit and poet from the Chinese T’ang Dynasty, Han-shan actually lived, and “The Urban Coyote: Howlings on family, community, and the search for peace and quiet.” His poetry collections include; “Earth in Anger: Twenty-five poems of love and despair for planet Earth”; “A Cartload of Scroll: 100 Poems in the Manner of the T’ang Dynasty Hermit Poet Han-Shan;” and “Into the Goodhue County Jail: Poems from Prisoners.”

Link is the author of “Bootstrapper: From Broke to Badass on a Northern Michigan Farm,” the film rights to which have been purchased by Academy Award-winning actress, Rachel Weisz. Her true crime novels of infamous Michigan murders have received much acclaim. “When Wicked Takes the Witness Stand” spent time on the New York Times’ Crime & Punishment Bestseller list. “When Evil Came to Good Hart” and “Isadore’s Secret” both spent several weeks on the Heartland Bestseller List and “Isadore’s Secret” was named a Michigan Notable Book. Mardi’s personal essays have been published in Creative Nonfiction, Bellingham Review, Bear River Review, Publishers Weekly, Traverse Magazine, and the Detroit Free Press.


Storyteller Michael Reno Harrell

Breaking from the trend of most of the other performers featured this year, the storyteller visiting Dowagiac in May hails not from the Midwest but from the crags of the South’s Appalachian Mountains.

Award winning storyteller Michael Reno Harrell will be share some of his original stories and songs with local audiences on Wednesday, May 11, at the Lyons theater at SMC. Once again sponsored by Securit, the tickets for this family-friendly event cost $6.

Harrell will also be sharing the secrets of his trade during a special master class at the Cass County COA Front Street Crossing Facility at 7 p.m. Tuesday, May 10. Registration for this event costs $10.

Harrell, who has toured the U.S, the British Isles and much of Europe through his act, came recommended to organizers with the festival by fellow storyteller Kim Weitkamp, who was the featured Dogwood storyteller in 2014.

“The very first story we heard from Michael on a video pretty much made us all go, ‘well he’s my favorite, I hope he’s everyone else’s favorite,’” said Bobbie Jo Hartline, festival secretary. “He was everyone’s favorite at the same time.”


Aviation Artist Rick Herter

This year’s 25th anniversary ends with an artist who, like the Dogwood event itself, traces his roots back to the Grand Old City.

Renowned Aviation Artist Rick Herter will return to his hometown to share his years of experience of combining his passion for art and flight in lecture Saturday, May 14, at the Dowagiac Area History Museum. The presentation is free.

Herter will also be showing off a few pieces of his art inside the museum.

“Rick is Dowagiac graduate, and he is excited and happy to come home,” Hartline said.

A native of Dowagiac, Herter has spent more than 30 years creating works of art depicting aircraft and air battles all over the world, for clients such as the U.S. Air Force and Navy, the Pentagon and Smithsonian Air and Space Museum. His mural showing off the history of aviation inside the Kalamazoo AIR ZOO museum is the largest indoor, hand-painted mural in the world, measuring 32 feet high by 900 feet long, covering 29,000 square feet total.

For a complete listing of Dogwood events and ticket information, visit the Dogwood Fine Arts Festival Webpage at http://dogwoodfinearts.org.