60th Ann Arbor Art Fair impacted by extreme weather

Monday, July 22, 2019 - 5:23pm

Visitors walk through the Ann Arbor Art Fair in downtown Ann Arbor Saturday afternoon.

Visitors walk through the Ann Arbor Art Fair in downtown Ann Arbor Saturday afternoon. Buy this photo
Alec Cohen/Daily

From Thursday, July 18, through Sunday, July 21, hundreds of tents filled with paintings, carvings, clothing and food lined the streets of downtown Ann Arbor for the annual Ann Arbor Art Fair, a conglomerate of the Street Art Fair, Summer Art Fair, State Street Art Fair and South University Art Fair. Celebrating its 60th anniversary, the Ann Arbor Art Fair boastsed over half a million attendees and one thousand artists. 

Karen Delhey, executive director of the Guild of Artists and Artisans, said planning the fair requires a lot of coordination between different organizations. She explained the planning process for the next fair starts a week after the current one finishes. 

The Guild of Artists and Artisans is specifically in charge of the Summer Art Fair, but Delhey said collaboration is required. Delhey said their mission was to provide marketing opportunities for artists and businesses. 

“We have over 1,000 jury-selected artists,” Delhey said. “Nowhere are you going to see this concentration of fine art in one place.”

Studio owner Dale Rodgers has enjoyed his ability to market his work through the art fair. 

“This is one of the greatest buying-energy crowds, “ Rogers said. “It’s a massive show. Because of the scale, you’ll meet buyers here from all over the country that come to the show”

Mark Lewanski, who owns a namesake glass studio, has been selling at the fair for 10 to 12 years and agrees with Rodgers’s sentiment. 

“It’s a really good show,” Lewanski said. “There’s so many people that come in here that can afford my work, so I can always sell enough to do well.”

Obtaining a spot of the art fair is considered selective. Delhey said once an artist applies, they are scored by jurists, with the highest scoring submissions receiving invites. For the Summer Art Fair, over 600 applications were received to fill 375 slots.

University of Michigan Business freshman Gabriel Correa attended the Art Fair for the first time and said he ejoyed the atmosphere. 

“I’m originally from Puerto Rico, so this is all new to me,” Correa said. “I think this is a really cool setting. It’s really family-friendly.”

Extreme weather impacts works, turnout

Temperatures rose to above 90 degrees throughout the fair, just like the past year’s art fair. Kaylan Mitchell, owner of the Getup Vintage said she saw the direct effects of the hot weather on her tent.

“I’d be in the tent and ladies, especially older ladies, would walk up to the tent, take one glance, look at me and say, ‘It’s too hot’ and walk away,” Mitchell said. “People don't want to put clothes on their sweaty bodies. Definitely sales were down just because people didn’t want to be trying on clothes in the heat.”

In addition to the hot weather, the fair was greeted by strong storms on Friday and Saturday. A down power line led to reports of a car explosion and injuries. Despite artists rushing to weigh down their tent and cover their artwork, tents still slid around the street and were blown over, leaving some artists’ work completely damaged. 

Artist Nick Ringelstetter captured a video of the storm on Friday and stated that artists only got a 15 minute warning to close down. 

“It takes artists more than 15 minutes to shut down the booth and get to shelter,” Ringelstetter said. “Fifteen minutes, and you could probably pack your displays and booth, and maybe (put) your walls up.”

After he was sure his booth was safe, Ringelstetter said he rushed over to Williams Street to help artists salvage their work and weigh down the remaining tents. Already, by the time he got there, he described tents being toppled by the wind. 

Mitchell was also present on Saturday when the second storm struck. 

“All of a sudden it was torrential downpour,” Mitchell said. “Water pooling on top of the tent came crashing down on my head.”

Due to the extreme weather artists and attendees faced, some are calling for the art fair to be moved to a different date. However, Ringelstetter said moving the art fair could provide a challenge to artists with a more packed touring schedule, as a shift in dates could be difficult for them to plan for.

“It’s hard for especially older folks (and) animals,” Mitchell said. “Whenever you have a fair the entire week there’s a heat stroke warning, I think it’s really important to take into consideration changing it.