The 57th Ann Arbor Street Art Fair will — for the first time ever — last throughout the entire weekend, hopefully drawing new crowds of spectators and artists.
This year’s Art Fair will run from Thursday to Sunday, instead of the traditional slot of Wednesday to Saturday, to hopefully stimulate more business in the downtown and draw both a new and younger crowd of artists and visitors.
The Art Fair has has been an annual tradition in Ann Arbor since 1960 and has grown to become one of the nation’s largest outdoor summer fairs, attracting hundreds of thousands of visitors each year.
Since the original fair’s inception, three more art fairs have been scheduled to occur at the same time: the Ann Arbor Art Fair, the State Street Art Fair and the South University Art Fair. Each exists as its own separate fair as a part of a larger event throughout the city.
Ann Arbor Police Department Lieutenant Renee Bush said the city has prepared for the expected crowds by stationing more police on duty as a way to ensure public safety.
“We’ve been doing this for years,” Bush said. “We’ve prepared with extra patrolling. The Art Fair is an extremely popular event — between 300 to 400 thousand people could be in the city for it.”
Bush also cautioned that, while the fair will be phenomenal, visitors should take the necessary precautions to ensure a healthy stay in the city.
“Staying hydrated is really important. It’s supposed to be very hot during Art Fair this year,” she added. “And people should take caution with their pets too.”
Councilmember Jane Lumm (I–Ward 2), who served as a board member for the Ann Arbor Street Art Fair for nearly a decade, said the fair has grown considerably into a large-scale, significant cultural event for the city.
“I would call it an iconic event for our community,” Lumm said. “It attracts thousands and thousands of visitors and hundreds of artists. It brings in a lot of people, which is of course great for business.”
However, this year’s Art Fair is unlike any other before it. Instead of running in the traditional slot of Wednesday through Saturday, it instead begins on Thursday and concludes on Sunday.
“(City Council) supported that move,” she said. “I know this is something the Art Fair directors have been working on for a number of years … In order for this to occur on Sunday it was critical to address the concerns for the churches. Congregations have access to churches.”
In addition to addressing the needs of Ann Arbor citizens, the switch was made to further stimulate business in the downtown where Art Fair occurs.
“I think everyone felt that this way it would be more customer friendly. It’s a good move,” Lumm said.
While the schedule shift away from Art Fair’s traditional slot may help encourage business activity, Maureen Riley, executive director of the Ann Arbor Street Art Fair, said the change was a long process to implement.
“Changing the Art Fair days was a little bit like turning the Titanic — it doesn’t happen overnight,” Riley said. “It took a lot of time and preparation, and we started that process a couple of years ago.”
According to Riley, the transition was a tactical move to keep the Art Fair accessible to people in modern society.
“It was a result of evaluating the Art Fair and it’s future and how to keep it sustainable and healthy,” she said. “One of the major components to that we felt was being open on the weekend. People don’t live the same lifestyle they did in 1960, when we first opened. Stores weren’t open in those days on Sunday … But that was 57 years ago and life is a lot different now.”
Another large reason for the updated schedule was to make the fair more appealing to young people and young artists. While artists who’ve come to Art Fair to show their work are always encouraged to come each year, event organizers noticed that many long-time artists were beginning to retire and not come back.
“The baby boom generation is starting to retire, which is allowing for a whole lot of new artists to come into this business,” Riley said. “We’ve been seeing that for the last few years and I’m sure that will continue. The work — the aesthetic in the Art Fair in my opinion — is appealing more to a younger profile than it did ten years ago.”