Anyone who has ever been in Ann Arbor over the summer knows what kind of madness ensues during the Art Fairs: The massive flock to all areas of campus and downtown leaves little room for anything but the art that the city comes together to celebrate.
Ann Arbor Art Fairs
July 21 to 24
Various locations around campus and downtown Ann Arbor
Each year, four independent fairs — the Ann Arbor Street Art Fair, The Original; the State Street Area Art Fair; the Ann Arbor Summer Art Fair and Ann Arbor’s South University Art Fair — act as one, bringing in roughly a thousand artists and over half a million visitors from all over.
The high-traffic, low-parking occasion probably seems like a reason for University students to piss and moan. But participating artists explain why the Art Fairs provide an opportunity for all demographics to become involved with the local art scene.
Samuel Yao, a professional basket weaver and Art Fair veteran, commented on the fairs’ importance as an Ann Arbor staple, recognized across the nation.
“During the year, I travel to many places … almost anywhere I go, the people know Ann Arbor,” Yao said. “Ann Arbor is very famous for two things: One is the University, of course, and the other one is the Ann Arbor Art Fair.”
Yao expressed that the eclecticism and variety provided by the Ann Arbor Art Fairs comes from a continuous cycle of not only patrons of the fairs, but from the new work being displayed from up-and-coming artists.
“Because the Art Fair has been running for so many years, I see over the years some old artists retiring and also young artists coming in for the shows,” Yao said. “This is a very good thing for the Art Fair to continue — when some artists retire, new artists keeping adding in.”
Yao also commented on how the Art Fairs are not only good for celebrating the culture and work of the artists, but also for stimulating the local economy by bringing a high influx of out-of-towners into the city and, in turn, a lot of business for local shops and restaurants.
While most aspects that avid fairgoers know and love will remain intact, some innovations have been introduced to this year’s Art Fairs. Brought up-to-date with the latest technology, they will create as low-stress an experience as possible for those who may be averse to the chaos of the fairs.
Innovations at this year’s fairs include a free Ann Arbor Art Fairs iPhone App — people can download it via iTunes directly to their iPhone. The app gives access to an artist search that includes participants’ information and a sample of their work, an entertainment search by name/stage/genre and convenient ways to get to and from the Art Fairs as well as parking, a local business search and more.
Also new this year will be air-conditioned trolleys which run on natural gas — at a cost of $1 per day, fairgoers will be able to be shipped easily between the separate fairs.
There are also new park-and-ride options available for fairgoers, with a new location at Maple Village Shopping Center for a $4 round trip. Other shuttles are available at Briarwood Mall, Pioneer High School and with the University Commuter Bus from North Campus — all for about a $3 round trip.
Although these changes have been made to help the Art Fairs run as smoothly as possible for visitors, the integrity of the fairs remains the same. Each of the fairs holds its own personality, and each has a unique draw that distinguishes it from the other locations. The fairs will be hosting a wide array of artists — some local to the A2 scene, like Yao, and some from all corners of the globe; some artists who have been coming to the fairs for 30 years, and others just on the brink of their professional careers.