The Ann Arbor Art Fair 2013

This was the summer to check out the Ann Arbor Art Fair.  I’ve known about it for years and wanted to see what all the hoopla was about.

The Art Fair is really four Art Fairs. They all connect so it may feel like one giant show, but when you look carefully, you can begin to see that each one is different. The oldest fair has been going on for 54 years.  This original fair is the only one to have juried art. The art there was truly exceptional and worthy of the prices the artists asked.

At its center is the University of Michigan. The campus is lovely and echoes the architecture of Oxford University. There are shaded quads, a majestic bell tower, an art museum, and all the bicycling students dodging the tourists.

We started over a month ago to look for a room for 2 nights. The usual hotels and inns were either totally booked or ridiculously expensive. We turned, instead, to airbnb. It’s the largest booking service in the world. We had success using them in Georgia. Anyway, we found a private bedroom and bath in a private home in a lovely and quiet neighborhood about 2 miles from the fair.  For the price of one night in the Bell Tower Hotel, we got to stay for 3 nights through airbnb.

Fair goers can take a shuttle from the local mall or high school to various drop-off stops. This is recommended since parking in nearby lots is rare and expensive. We rode our bikes and we also were lucky to find metered parking for brief periods just one street over.

Each of the four fairs is about 2 times bigger than the typical fairs in neighborhoods around Cleveland.  Artists come from all around the country. We saw art from Colorado, California, Florida, and many states on the east coast.

The first fair we visited was the South University Art Fair that is only 14 years old. We went late on the first day we arrived.  Even then, it was in the mid 80’s and very humid. The entire 3 days we were there, everyone suffered with the heat and humidity. All the booths had fans going. One artist was clutching hers on her lap.

Right from the first, I found a lot of art I loved. I am partial to glass and fabric and there was a lot of that. I pitied the poor artists who brought sweaters and jackets. They were beautiful, but I was so warm I didn’t even want to touch them much less try them on.

It took us about two hours to tour that one fair. Then it was back to the car and dinner. If you go to A2, you are in for a culinary treat. There are over 150 restaurants in the area. We walked right in and found a table. The air conditioning was welcome, since all the retailers stay open into the night during this event; many tourists who wanted a dip of cool visited, and often spent money, at the local stores.  We hit another fair after dinner.  The Guild Fair was decidedly less wonderful than the South University Fair. Perhaps the awe had worn off but it felt that the art was more commercial, less original and more cheaply made.

The next day we rode our bikes into town right at 10am when the fairs open. It was even hotter and more humid.  After viewing, we ate lunch, did a little more browsing, and headed back to shower and cool off.

The last day we headed back at the opening to make our purchases. All the artists were complaining that the heat was keeping people away. Sales were down. But once my checkbook had been cracked open, the spending began and we bought the glass pieces pictured below:

Ann Arbor Art Fair 2013

In addition, I bought a sweet little fabric collage impression.Ann Arbor Art Fair 2013

I’m vowing to go back and take some friends. The people watching alone is worth the visit. But even better is the stunning realization of the wealth of talent that is put into the objects that beautify our lives.


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  1. Carolyn says:

    You and Dave sure have fun attending such a variety of events. My hat’s off to you both for your red hot sense of adventure and your determination to fulfill it!