Day 46: Ann Arbor Art Fair

Photo by Jack Durham

Every summer, the Ann Arbor Art Fairs attract an estimated 500,000 art enthusiasts and window shoppers alike. What began 52 years ago as simply the Ann Arbor Street Art Fair, has become a huge event of four coinciding art fairs that span across downtown Ann Arbor’s most popular areas. This four day event exhibits artists from around the nation that specialize in drawing, painting, photography, ceramics, glass, jewelry, and sculptures of metal, stone, and wood. The Ann Arbor Art Fairs have won several highly recognizable awards such as #1 Art Fair in the Nation from AmericanStyle Magazine, Nation’s Number One Fine Art Fair by Sunshine Artist Magazine, and Readers’ Choice Event of the Year 2010 by Current Magazine. The art fairs are an enjoyable experience for artists and shoppers alike.

Photo by Jack Durham

While buying or at least looking at art is the main reason most people would attend an art fair, the Ann Arbor Art Fairs have a lot more than just home décor. Visitors can stop in the shade and check out art demos where artists demonstrate how they create their art, or participate in one of the several Art Activity Zones and try their own hand at creating an artistic masterpiece. There is always some live entertainment happening in Ann Arbor, and the art fair is no exception. This year, a full lineup of performers are scheduled to play on three different stages at the fair. Many representatives of nonprofits and social causes are also present at the art fair, and it can be an adventure in itself talking to someone passionate about what they do. And as always, shoppers can find plenty of good deals from local vendors and restaurants that enjoy the high traffic from the Art Fair.

Photo by Jack Durham

Everyone is sure to find something new and interesting that they wouldn’t see at the local art gallery. You could be shocked by the realistic looking wax sculptures, or the old trash you threw away displayed as art. Locally-raised Ypsilanti resident Ryan Bogan restores and reuses materials he scavenges in his art and jewelry. “I’ve always been fascinated by little pieces of random things my entire life. Even as a child, I collected little boxes of pieces that I’d pick up here and there. I’ve always had a lot of collections,” he said. While his gathering of materials is surely unorthodox, he believes the stories behind the art are just as important as the art itself. Bogan is just one of the many unique artists featured at the art fairs. Even children who don’t yet appreciate fine art can find some entertainment without causing chaos. There are hands-on experiences for children and adults at the Ann Arbor Street Art Fair, the Original, and at the State Street Area Art Fair. The local nonprofit Liberty Street Robot Supply & Repair is featuring their second annual Robot Art Fair. In addition to their usual robot themed clothing and gadgets, there will be robot art projects for young people, and a sneak peak of the industrial robot Spider, who will be featured in the upcoming Spiderman movie.

Photo by Jack Durham

While finding parking in the downtown area can be expensive and near impossible, visitors can park at the centrally located Pioneer High School or the Maple Village Shopping Center on the West side and take public transportation downtown for a small fee. Before you ask how to find your way around, yes, there is an app for that. iPhone users can download a free app to display their location, get information about artists, food, local businesses, the trolley, music stages, and parking. For the rest of us stuck in the 20th century, there are plenty of information booths with free maps. The Ann Arbor art fairs are entertaining and fun to explore; it can take the whole day to see it all, so plan your time accordingly if you plan to check it out! This year, the fair runs from Wednesday July 20th-Saturday July 23rd. If you don’t bring a drink of your own, plan to buy one, because it is always hot! ~Jack Durham, Regional Director

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The Awesome Mitten was born when I moved back to Michigan from Nashville, TN in September 2010. Almost immediately, I became frustrated. I couldn’t figure out why there weren’t more Michigan residents singing our states praises! I was so irritated, I wrote a Letter to the Editor. Three weeks later, I had started a Facebook page, a Twitter account, and a landing page for the website, determined to do something to make Michigan residents aware of all the cool things going on in their own state. Email me: alex@awesomemitten.com