East Lansing Art Festival Poster Showcases Symbolic Beaver as Unsung Ecosystem Hero

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Courtesy of Sara Pulver.

Poster for the East Lansing Art Festival, designed by Sara Pulver.

After a rich 57 year-history, 2020 marked the first time that the East Lansing Art Festival (ELAF) didn’t take over the downtown streets. Instead, the festival went virtual and was able to return in-person – but with a smaller footprint – for 2021. 

This year, the 59th ELAF is poised to return on Saturday, May 21, and Sunday, May 22, with 174 artists, demonstrations, interactive activities, live music, digital content, food vendors, and more.

Though some things may be finally looking more like we’re used to when it comes to the festival, other aspects are new and fresh, including the poster design. 

Lansing resident Sara Pulver of Dear Ollie, a line of paper goods and gifts, is the mastermind behind the colorful poster. 

Photo courtesy of Jennifer A. Berggren Productions.

Artist Sara Pulver

Pulver has been doing graphic design for 15 years and professional illustration for eight years. She spoke to ELi about how this current project came to be and about the symbolism behind the vibrant, playful design of the Art Festival poster. 

“The East Lansing Art Festival alongside the City of [East] Lansing put out a ‘Call for Qualifications’ this winter for the Art Festival design package,” Pulver said. “I submitted a narrative about my experience along with several project examples, and I was genuinely so surprised and honored to be selected.”

This is the first time Pulver has done any work for the City of East Lansing, and was happy that the festival team was open to her design ideas for the end deliverables. Pulver encourages people to think and move more outside of the box. 

“It’s how we grow,” she said. “I am so thankful to the team at the East Lansing Art Festival for taking a chance on something different, and looking for a way to bring local artists back into the poster design.”

As for Pulver’s typical aesthetic, her work is inspired by nature, humanity, and the interconnectedness between the two.

Her outdoor murals and vibrant illustrations feature equal parts vibrant and whimsical, with contrasting moody undertones.

Photo courtesy of Jennifer A. Berggren Productions.

Artist Sara Pulver paints a mural.

For the ELAF poster design, the subject matter focuses on a beaver, as an unsung hero and a keystone species. Other species in an ecosystem greatly depend on keystone species, and if they’re removed, the entire ecosystem is drastically altered. 

“If you’ve seen my work before, you’ve probably noticed that flora and fauna are my main subjects. Wildlife biology and conservation are very important to me, and a general driving force throughout my artwork,” Pulver said. “I tend to typically gravitate towards species that are under-appreciated or undervalued. I’m all about the outcasts. Like most creatures in the rodent family, I believe beavers fall into that category.”

“Beavers are engineers of ecosystems, completely shaping the world around them…These changes can last for hundreds of years after beavers leave an area,” Pulver said. “It’s not hard to draw parallels between beavers and artists. We too, are often unsung heroes; working quietly in the background, at times being devalued by society, our careers thought of as hobbies. Yet with every painting, sculpture, mural, film, composition, advertisement, fashion trend and even the very plates we eat off of, we completely shape the world around us. We continue our work, beautifying and creating environments out of nothing – creating change that will stick around long after we are gone.”

Pulver’s design will be available for purchase in prints and t-shirts in the ELAF festival booth during the 59th annual ELAF on Saturday, May 21, from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Sunday, May 22, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

The festival will take place on M.A.C. Avenue, from Grand River Avenue to Albert Avenue, and on Albert Avenue, from the entrance/exit to the Albert Avenue Garage to Bailey Street. The festival site will also include Ann Street Plaza, Fountain Square, and the Albert EL Fresco pedestrian space. A map is available here. 

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