Ann Arbor prepares for 45th annual summer art fairs

BY KATE TOMKIE
Daily Staff Reporter
Published July 18, 2004

The arrival of midsummer in Ann Arbor brings artists from around
the country as the city opens its doors for the art fairs, a local
tradition half a century in the making.

The Ann Arbor Art Fair is actually a compilation of four fairs,
comprising the Ann Arbor Street, State Street Area, Guild’s
Summer and South University Art Fairs.

Each fair is held in a perennial location and exhibits art and
artists from nearly every state, including work in mediums such as
wood, glass, jewelry, painting and photography.

Exhibitors in each of the art fairs undergo a winter selection
process that reduces as many as 1,110 applicants to between 100 and
200, according to Shary Brown, executive director of the Street
Fair.

Jurors who are community members, non-exhibiting artisans and
faculty invited from Michigan universities judge the art in all
four fairs. Awards are based on creativity and excellence and are
announced on the final day of the fairs.

The Street Fair, which makes its move this year from the South
University area to Ingalls Mall, is the first and oldest of the art
fairs. Created in 1960, the art fair was originally one of several
events that took place during the city’s summer sidewalk
sales in the 1940s and ’50s. It developed into its own event
with the help of the local artists and community members.

“I don’t know that anyone expected it to become what
it has today,” Brown said.

Other art fairs blossomed in the wake of the Street Fair’s
success. Guild’s Summer Art Fair, located on Main and State
Streets, was founded in 1969 by the Michigan Guild of Artists and
Artisans, and is home to professional artists who belong to the
organization.

Max Clayton, executive director of the Michigan Guild, said she
believes the Summer Art Fair’s membership-only list of
exhibitors makes for an interesting event.

“Members earn their place on the street, not only by
membership standing, but by seniority. The artists are always
evolving, so the art is always evolving, too,” Clayton
said.

Each art fair will be host to not only a total of 1,200 artists,
but also a menagerie of food courts, entertainment stages and
creative workshops.

Lexus, a sponsor of the Summer Art Fair, will be hosting a
misting station for overheated fairgoers at the corner of Liberty
and Main Streets.

State Street Area Art Fair is held on State and Liberty Streets
and is home to more than 80 shops, which will all be open from
browsing during the fair.

The Street Fair has planned events for every age group,
including artists’ demonstrations on techniques, an art zone
with separate stations for kids and teens and one event that
promises to attract Detroit Pistons fans of all ages — the
NBA trophy, on display in the north end of Ingalls Mall on
Saturday, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

“It’s a trophy, but when we researched it a little
we found it really is art too. It was designed by Tiffany, and I
think visitors will be excited to see the connection between sports
and art,” Brown said.

The Street Fair will also be hosting an emerging artist booth
featuring three exhibiting students from the School of Art and
Design. Connie Shea, a recent graduate of the art school and one of
the emerging artists, said she’s excited to get a taste of
being an artist in the fair.

“I’ve been in gallery shows before, but I think this
is going to be completely different. At the art fair, more people
are looking to buy art, but at a gallery people are just looking at
art,” Shea said.

Jenny Schumaker, also a recent graduate of the art school and an
emerging artist, is also excited about the shift from gallery sales
to the art fair.

“I want to meet my buyers. As a gallery artist, you really
don’t get to meet your buyer. Your work just sits there until
it sells,” Schumaker said.

“It’s always been a goal of mine to get into the Ann
Arbor Art Fair because I’ve been going with my family since I
was in middle school. I finally did it,” she added.