“For what it is, it’s the peak,” Manchester-based artist Eric Cooper says of the Ann Arbor Art Fair. “It’s an overindulgence, in a way, of what art fairs are.”
The four-day fair, which consists of four separate art fairs sprawling across 30 city blocks in downtown Ann Arbor, will take that indulgence up yet another notch for its 57th anniversary. For the first time in its history the art fair will open on a Thursday, July 21, and close on a Sunday, July 24, instead of its usual Wednesday-to-Saturday schedule.
“Over the years, people have been wondering why we don’t go over the weekend,” says fair spokesman Daniel Cherrin. “We wanted to push it over the weekend for more people to enjoy.”
More than 500,000 fairgoers are expected to attend, perusing the works created by the more than 1,000 artists. Although the festival draws artists from all over the country, the majority hail from Michigan, which Cherrin says is a big draw.
Steven Huyser-Honig has exhibited his photography, which exclusively features Michigan landscapes, at the fair for the past six years. The Grand Rapids resident describes the amount of out-of-state interest he receives at the event as “gratifying.”
“Some of it is from nearby states — people from Illinois or Indiana or Ohio that vacation in Michigan — but I also have people who are expats,” Huyser-Honig says.
Ferndale-based sculptor and gallery owner Kaiser Suidan says he has clients who come from as far away as Florida.
“You’re not only tapping into local clients,” Suidan says. “You’re developing a client base nationally.”
Two first-time exhibitors are hoping the fair will help launch a new business venture. Hazel Park residents Alyssa Klash and Alan Ledford are the proprietors of Artsy Fart, a planned studio, art store and youth art education facility that recently received a Motor City Match grant fund to open a multipurpose storefront this year.
“We saw that the public school system is going downhill,” Ledford says. “They’re cutting all the arts, which is kind of what built us up to be what we are today. We feel like we have an obligation to step up because there's a huge hole with the arts nowadays.”
Klash and Ledford say they hope to bring other local artists’ works, including those of student creators, to the Ann Arbor Art Fair in years to come.
The art fair also holds many simpler pleasures for those more casual participants in the art world — like Cherrin, who openly admits that he’s not a serious art collector.
“I get to spend four days in Ann Arbor, walking around the streets and just people-watching,” he says. “Everyone has a great story to tell and it’s great to see where these people come from and what they’re doing.”
Patrick Dunn is an Ann Arbor-based freelance writer.
10 a.m.-9 p.m. July 21-July 23; noon-6 p.m. July 24
Downtown Ann Arbor