A crowd descended upon Ann Arbor on a sizzling Wednesday afternoon for the first day of the city’s 54th annual Art Fair, which features hundreds of booths exhibiting art, selling food and hawking products and promotions, as well as displaying work from University researchers.
The fair itself is a combination of four separate fairs: the Ann Arbor Art Fair, Ann Arbor’s South University Art Fair, the State Street Area Art Fair and the Ann Arbor Summer Art Fair. The fair runs until Saturday.
In total, it covers over 30 city blocks with 1,100 artists and an estimated half million people in attendance. The artists hail from all over, coming from 38 different states and four countries along with local Ann Arbor artists.
Art Fair spokesperson Daniel Cherrin said the event is a kind of two-way street: Ann Arbor hosts the artists so they can be included in one of the nation’s largest art fairs, while in return the event brings business to the city.
“The city itself is raw, the Art Fair itself is another way to bring people into the city and to enjoy what it has to offer,” he said. “It’s a Michigan tradition.”
Cherrin said this year the fair has expanded walking space to better accommodate foot traffic, added shuttle services and increased parking options.
To address the projected 90-degree weather, Cherrin said there will be misting stations along South University Avenue and State Street as well as an air-conditioned trolley which will tour the fair. Cherrin said staff will remind attendees to stay hydrated and safe but he doesn’t expect the heat to deter anyone.
“It’s summer in Michigan, it’s July in Michigan, rain or shine people know that the Art Fair is coming up and it’s something that we all plan for,” he said.
Though the fair does not include work from the School of Art and Design, it does feature some pieces from University faculty. Among these include “bio-artography”, a science-meets-art creation by University researchers.
Bio-artography is composed of pictures taken during lab work through microscopes and features the naturally occurring art within living cells.
Deborah Gumucio, professor of cell and developmental biology and head of the bio-artography project, said she and her colleagues started selling these pictures at the Art Fair in 2005 as a way to raise money for young student-scientists to attend meetings across the country.
Gumucio said the process involves faculty from five University schools and 27 different departments with researchers submitting images they have taken during the course of their work. Light and color is then added in to the received pictures. Gumucio and five faculty members in the School of Art and Design then vote the pieces that will be displayed.
The images portray anything from cancer to stem cells, Gumucio said. She added that on top of being visually pleasing, the pictures have the appeal of being from actual work done at the University.
Because of this, Gumucio said the pictures both raise money and help to educate and engage the public on science. Through her work, she has spoken at high schools, forums and meetings to discuss the way that science and art can be used to promote each other.
“We’ll start talking about something — let’s say the induced pluripotent stem cells,” Gumucio said. “And now you have an opportunity to tell them what the differences are between whole-organ stem cells in an adult versus pluripotent stem cells that you make from an adult versus embryonic stem cells.”
Gumucio said the project typically puts forth about 100 pictures, which usually generate about $9,000 to $10,000 — half of which goes to preparing the images and the other half to the students. Gumucio said since 2005, the project has sent over 60 students to meetings nationwide.
Theresa Reid, executive director of Arts Engine and one of the five artists that vote on the images used in the project, said the images are “fantastic” and that she really supports the bio-artography project.
“(Gumucio and her colleagues have) been encouraged to see the beauty of their scientific work in ways that I don’t think they otherwise would have,” Reid said.