Organizers of the Ann Arbor Street Art Fair are working to repair a hole in the fair’s budget, which was estimated on Friday to be about $35,000.
The fair, now in its 50th year and the longest-running of Ann Arbor’s four annual art fairs, has lost some corporate sponsorship, while independent artists have been renting fewer booths out of caution, fair officials said. Before Friday, the budget hole was originally thought to be $65,000.
Shary Brown, executive director of the Ann Arbor Street Art Fair, said national corporations that previously sponsored the fair, like Maybelline and Nintendo Wii Fit, are not producing as many new products, so marketing tours are not taking place.
The state’s economy has also deterred corporate presence at the fair, which is scheduled for July 15-18.
“They’re leery of Michigan, and they’re trying to be cautious,” said Brown, in reference to the corporations.
The event is expected to feature 147 artists, a drop from last year’s 174. Brown attributed the decrease in to a decline in the number of artist applications and fewer invitations to artists from the fair’s organizers.
Brown said the budget decrease is unprecedented because the fair’s organizers have reported budget growth each year since relocating to the Burton Tower area in 2003. The fair has retained an average budget of $370,000 in past years.
Brown and the fair’s organizers have been trying to generate new revenue and cut nonessential expenses in order to repair the budget hole.
Expenses that were cut are based on responses in surveys given to past performers and patrons, ranging from services for artists to entire workshop events at the fair.
“We look at the surveys to see which workshops are the least important and have low attendance, and those ones are vulnerable,” Brown said, adding that artist services like free drinking water were eliminated using surveys given to artists only.
Amid the expense cuts, Brown said the fair’s daily music and art performances are receiving comparatively few cuts, since fair officials want to continue offering compensation to the performers for their work.
Fair officials are also calling on community members to help repair the budget, which does not necessarily entail donating money.
“They can help just by volunteering. They can get an inside look at the fair this way,” Brown said, adding that potential volunteers and donors should consider the fair’s consistently invigorating impact on the local economy.
Brown said that this is the first time in 50 years that fair organizers have looked to the community for help — though fair organizers always accept donations at booths during the fair.
In addition to charity from the community, Karen Delhey, partnership and marketing director of the Ann Arbor Street Fair, has been trying to generate revenue by putting together custom advertising packages for local businesses.
“In lieu of national corporate tours, we figured we could take advantage of this and work with more regional and local companies and offer them packages,” she said.
A few regional businesses that have accepted such offers to join the fair this year include FireKeepers Casino in Battle Creek, Wow Green (a manufacturer of eco-friendly cleaning products in Southfield) and Relax The Back, a distributor of massage products and ergonomic furniture based out of Northville.
While businesses previously participated for the entire fair, Delhey said they’re now able to make safer investments by appearing only one or two days out of the four.
Several local businesses are also involved with the Art Fair Townie Street Party kickoff event, which includes music, a beer and wine tent and a kids’ art fair held the Monday night before the Ann Arbor Street Art Fair.
The Townie Street Party has consistently been a financial success in previous years, and fair officials expect to repeat strong attendance this year.
“The question people have been asking is, ‘Are you going out of business?’ and the answer is a resounding no,” Brown said. “We’re trying to do the best we can to be creative and resourceful.”
“We’re going to be fine, but we want to be fine for the next 50 years,” she said.