Art Fair celebrates connection between artists and their audience

Wednesday, July 19, 2017 - 3:50pm


Courtesy of Ann Arbor Art Fair


From July 20-23, hundreds of thousands will flock to Ann Arbor for the 58th annual Street Art Fair. After 57 years, the Fair has expanded into four concurrent events — The Ann Arbor Street Art Fair (The Original), Ann Arbor State Street Art Fair, Ann Arbor Summer Art Fair and Ann Arbor South University Art Fair — all located around Central Campus and downtown. It’s one of the busiest and most energetic weekends in the city, even rivaling football Saturdays in terms of crowd size.

The Art Fair celebrates the intricate relationship between artists and their audience. In a phone interview with the Daily, Bloomfield Hills-based artist Lisa Farris described her fondness for outdoor art fairs.

“It feels more accessible in a way that galleries don't," Farris said. I think a lot of people come to an art fair for the fun of it, and they end up buying pieces that they like and want to have in their home. And these same people may never feel comfortable going to a gallery."

“An art fair isn’t intimidating. You’re actually talking to an artist, there are other activities, there’s food… it’s like a big party,” she said. “To get the actual work done, I spend so much time just isolated. So to finally come out and have your work out there and have people react to it is really invigorating.”

Farris, a graduate of the University of Michigan, earned a dual degree in Fine Arts and Honors English and speaks fondly of her experience in the Stamps School of Art and Design: “The professors were amazing. The school itself, like the student body, was so supportive of each other’s work — it was a great four years.”

Although her education was focused in printmaking, she now primarily works with clay. Her work at this year’s Fair consists of a variety of sculptures, many of which are meant to decorate a garden. Farris notes the competitive selection process for the artists. “There has to be something about your work that is unusual because you’re competing against so many other artists. There has to be a reason why they picked this ceramic artist over the (many) others that have applied,” she explained.

Considering the fierce competition, the Art Fair features work created by some of the most talented artists across the country. Over 1,000 artists attend with their booths lining the city’s streets.

The abundance of entertainment encourages many to return to the Fair every year; LSA junior Anna DeVeaux has attended the festival with her family for 15 consecutive years and wishes to continue her streak.

“It’s really fun to just walk around because of all the different things going on — all of the community comes together,” DeVeaux said. “It’s just a really cool vibe to be around. And there’s great street food.”

DeVeaux points out the dynamic atmosphere during the Art Fair. “All of the streets are completely packed and there’s so much energy because everyone is going in between booths… it’s really bustling and everyone’s super interested in everything they’re going past.”

Although the Fair can be a hindrance to local residents — streets close and traffic becomes nightmarish — the city puts on the Townie Street Party to thank locals for their patience and cooperation during the busy weekend. Still, the Fair’s lack of parking has become a joke in and of itself. “We have this poster in our family room that just has pictures of all the no parking signs from the Ann Arbor Art Fair. It’s a funny joke to us,” DeVeaux said.

Nevertheless, she believes scarce parking and large crowds shouldn’t stop anyone from attending, explaining that “there’s really something for everyone,” making it one of the most exciting events in Metro Detroit all year.