July 16, 2014 at 1:00 am

Ann Arbor Art Fair brings in new blood

Between the four fairs that make up the Ann Arbor Art fair, there will be more than 1,000 artists spread over 30 city blocks. (David Coates / The Detroit News)

The oldest of the four fairs collectively known as the Ann Arbor Art Fair is unveiling something new this year.

The “New Art, New Artists” program will enable eight college-age students to display their works in a group booth along the streets of the Ann Arbor Street Art Fair, centered around the Burton Memorial Tower. The eight up-and-comers (selected through an application process) had booth fees waived and will receive guidance from artists and fair organizers.

“(The program) offers students the opportunity to test the waters at being an art fair artist, and we walk them through the process by mentoring,” says Maureen Riley, executive director of the Ann Arbor Street Art Fair.

Many familiar artists also will be returning to this year’s Ann Arbor Art Fair, an annual summer event for more than 50 years. Sprawling over 30 city blocks, the fair features more than 1,000 artists, entertainment, artists’ demonstrations, outdoor food courts and sidewalk sales, in addition to the many restaurants, galleries and shops open during the fair.

Among the lucky college students exhibiting as part of the “New Art, New Artists” program is Gregory Carr, a 2014 College for Creative Studies graduate. The 23-year-old Canton Township resident, who specializes in oil painting, has never before exhibited his work at an art fair. He says he’s curious to see how his work is received in the fair setting.

“Normally, the booths would cost around $1,000 or more,” Carr says. “So it’s really just a great opportunity. It’s like a blessing that they’re providing free booths for all the artists. As a recent graduate, I don’t have the money to enter an art fair right now.”

Tess Tobolic, a 23-year-old Wayland resident and established artist, will be doing something a little different. Rather than exhibiting at a booth, Tobolic will create a giant chalk drawing on the pavement at Washington Street and the Ingalls Mall. The mural will feature African wildlife and scenery in a nod to fair sponsor Kalahari Resorts.

The subject matter will be a bit of a departure for Tobolic, who mostly specializes in medical illustration. However, she is also a regular attendee at the West Michigan Chalk Art Festival in Byron and enjoys creating in real time with an audience.

“I don’t think a lot of people know about chalk art yet, so when they see someone doing it it really does draw them in,” she says. “They’re interested to see how you apply the chalk to the ground and make the different colors that you do. A lot of it is blending the colors, and really pushing it into the ground.”

Tobolic has never been to the art fair before, but says she’s always wanted to go.

As for Carr, the fair is an institution that young artists are eager to be part of.

“I’m very excited,” Tobolic says. “When they asked me, I couldn’t wait.”

Ann Arbor Art Fair

10 a.m.-9 p.m. Wednesday-Friday, 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Saturday

Central Ann Arbor


Patrick Dunn is an Ann Arbor-based freelance writer.