Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Registration Open Now for 2012 Arts & Eats – A Self-Guided Agri-Cultural Driving Tour of SW Michigan

Participant registration is now open for the 2nd Annual Arts & Eats weekend, which is scheduled for Saturday and Sunday, October 20-21, throughout portions of Allegan, Barry, Calhoun, Kalamazoo, Kent and Van Buren Counties. Applications for artist studios, galleries, farms and restaurants are available online at, under “Applications” and are due by close of business on June 15.

Arts & Eats is a free self-guided driving tour of artist studios, eateries featuring locally-grown food, and farms that feature the best in Michigan specialty farm products. Travelers are encouraged to explore the back roads to visit participating farms, art studios and central venues, which will be open both days from 10am to 5pm. Restaurants will be open during normal business hours, and many will kick-off the tour the night before (October 19).

Art enthusiasts can visit dozens of different galleries and central venues to view the works of local painters, potters, photographers, sculptors and other artisans. Artists welcome guests to their studios, while galleries feature some of the most talented local art for the tour. Artists who do not have a public studio have been invited to display their works at several different central venues, which will be announced in the coming months.

Participants can also experience local foods both at the farms where the food is grown and area restaurants. Participants can visit farms that grow the food that we eat or farms that grow the fiber we wear. Several farms raise fiber animals including alpacas and sheep. This tour is a unique opportunity for people to visit farms that may not normally be open to the public. Participating restaurants are featuring special menu items using local products, with chefs using their creative culinary talents to pull together some fabulous menu items for the event.

Arts and Eats was introduced last fall by the Barry County Tourism Council and this year welcomes the Allegan County Tourist Council, along with other partner organizations, including the Barry County Chamber of Commerce, Hastings Public Library, Michigan State University (MSU) Extension, Pierce Cedar Creek Institute, Promote Michigan, Thornapple Arts Council, and area artists and studios. The premier sponsor in 2011 was State Farm.

According to organizers, the tour has multiple purposes including raising awareness and appreciation of the region’s rural areas, and educating people about the economic, environmental, and health benefits of buying and consuming locally grown foods. Another purpose of the tour is to support Michigan artists as entrepreneurs and also to connect farmers with local restaurants which can provide locally grown foods.

“The idea driving Arts & Eats is to invite tourists to explore rural artists, agricultural venues and restaurants, all the while soaking in our beautiful fall scenic landscape,” says Ginger Hentz, Barry County Tourism Co-Chair and Barry County MSU Extension Educator.

A listing of participants will be posted online as they are confirmed, at A tour guide and map will be available at all the sites the days of the tour. An online map will be available by September 1.

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