Ann Arbor Art Fair gears up for weekend of art, food and people

Kaitlyn Luckoff
The Detroit News

Nearly 1,000 artists are ready to share their work with thousands of art collectors, admirers and music fans who are expected to descend on this weekend's Ann Arbor Art Fair.

The annual three-day fair is considered to be the largest juried art fair in the country, spanning 30 city blocks and attracting about 500,000 people throughout the weekend. With three separate independently juried fairs — the Original Ann Arbor Street Art Fair, the Ann Arbor Summer Art Fair and the Ann Arbor State Street Art Fair — the event takes place 10 a.m.-9 p.m. Thursday and Friday, and 10 a.m.-8 p.m. Saturday. 

The Ann Arbor Art Fair transforms downtown Ann Arbor into an outdoor art gallery in this file photo.

Every year, a featured artist is selected to create a poster that encapsulates the essence and individuality of each fair.

Textural artist Jeff Schaller was selected to create a poster for the Original Ann Arbor Street Art Fair, mixed media abstract painter Armando Pedroso's artwork represents the Ann Arbor Summer Art Fair, and glass-blowing artist Henry Levine was selected for the Ann Arbor State Street Art Fair. A complete list of  artists visiting this year's fair can be found here.

Beginning his career as a painter late in life after being laid off from his corporate job following the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks,  Pedroso said he enjoys being able to connect with festival attendees.

"It's one of the top (art fairs) in the country. The people are fantastic, they're educated in Ann Arbor as far as knowing quality art," Pedroso said. "They know great questions to ask, they're interested in it.

"The fun thing about being an artist is it's a soul purchase people make, so it's a connection. It's not just 'I need a painting to match my couch.' It's a purchase that a lot of people make because it moves them. When you're selling a painting or talking to somebody who buys the painting and it moves them, it's really gratifying."

Pedroso's artworks range from the abstract to a barn series. One of his paintings, "The Jester," will be used as the promotional poster for the art fair. He said he was inspired to create a poster that embodies positivity, therefore, his artwork is filled with colorful faces. He also wanted to express himself as he isolated during the COVID-19 pandemic, similar to his journey to becoming a painter after 9/11, and give people hope.

"It's kind of this fun picture of a Jester, and the shoulders are raised and he's going like, 'OK, now what do we do?' And on his T-shirt is the king of hearts," Pedroso said. "Kind of in line with what happened after 9/11... start following your heart. For me, it was trying new styles of painting, but also the belief that we'll all make it through this and come out better."

And while there will be hundreds of artists on hand to present their work, Pedroso said all of the creatives share a very special bond.

"There's also the inspiration of seeing all of the other great artists that are out there," Pedroso said. "We're kind of like, this art fair community, we're like a family. We watch out for each other and learn from each other."

  Frances Todoro-Hargreaves, executive director of the State Street Art Fai, said in addition to art, there will be plenty of shopping and dining.

The Ann Arbor Art Fair spans nearly 30 city blocks.

"We'll have some of our local businesses participating also, so restaurants and retailers," Todoro-Hargreaves said. "The retailers will have their sidewalk sales and the restaurants will have their outdoor dining, and we'll also have some grab and go food. This year, we're looking forward to having our stages back after COVID, so each of the three fairs will have a stage in their section and there will be entertainment throughout the three days of the fair."

Offering their eats on the streets are participating restaurants: Amer’s, Ashley’s, HopCat, Isalita Cantina, Knight’s, Mani Osteria, New York Pizza Depot, Pita Kabob Grill, Red Hawk, Sava’s, Slurping Turtle, Taste Kitchen, Black Pearl, Blue Llama, Conor O’Neill’s, Chop House, Palio, Real Seafood Co., Jim Brady’s, Regents Field, Old Town, Pacific Rim, Ally Bar, The Grotto, West End Grill, TAQ, Pizza House, Good Time Charley’s, Beyond Juicery and Vinology.

Other outside food vendors include: The Nut House, Camper Bean, Bear Claw Coffee and Smoothies, Bao Boys, CAYA Smoke House Grill, Peace, Love and Tacos, Mity Nice Italian Ice and Casbah Cuisine.

Attendance numbers are expected to return to normal this year, said  Todoro-Hargreaves.

"We are definitely expecting to have our attendance numbers back to pre-COVID," she said. "One of the things that we are doing to encourage that is we are having remaining spacing between the booths. For instance, here on State Street, we used to have the booths seven in a row. Now there are only three or four in a row because we wanted to give the additional space for the public to space out and stay off to the side if they want to take a break or something."

New this year is the "We Bear Art" exhibit that will showcase the works of 31 artists isolated in U.S. and UK prisons during the COVID-19 pandemic. There will also be workshops for attendees.

To entertain fair attendees, Ann Arbor resident David Zinn will host “Chalk the Walk," where he will create street artwork with chalk. Also, Mark Lincoln Braun will perform as the Boogie-Woogie Playing Piano Man. 

The art fair comprises three independently juried nonprofit art fairs and will display the work of nearly 1,000 artists.

The Stage on Main will partner with The Ark to feature a sample of what this nonprofit and music venue does on the corner of Main and William streets. The Fountain Stage, located on Ingalls Mall, between E. Washington and N. University streets, will highlight student and community performances. Lastly, the Ann Arbor Civic Theatre Stage will showcase local musicians at the intersection of Maynard and William Street.

Ann Arbor Art Fair

10 a.m.-9 p.m. Thursday and Friday; 10 a.m.-8 p.m. Saturday

downtown Ann Arbor

Admission: Free

The Stage on Main schedule:

Thursday

5 p.m. – Dani Darling

6:30 p.m. – The Quebe Sisters

8 p.m. – Kyshona

Friday

5:30 p.m. – Brooke Annibale

7:30 p.m. – John Reilly & The Community Gardeners

Saturday

3 p.m. – Out Loud Chorus

5 p.m. – The Whiskey Charmers

6:30 p.m. – Jared Deck

The Fountain Stage schedule:

Thursday

11 a.m. – Alison Albrecht

Noon – Delta 88

1 p.m. – Kathy Wieland

2 p.m. – Brian Lillie and Merrill Hodenfield

3 p.m. – Timothy Monger

4 p.m. – Indie Rock Royalty

5 p.m. – Detroit Opera: Summer Serenade

6 p.m. – Eric Kelly

Friday

11 a.m. – Karl Sikkenga of Archipelago

Noon – Joanna Sterling

1 p.m. – John D. Lamb

2 p.m. – Lily MacPhee

3 p.m. – Adam Labeaux

4 p.m. – Shannon Lee & The Silver Linings

5 p.m. – Lvrboy.

6 p.m. – Rochelle Clark

7 p.m. – Kiyoshi Shelton

Saturday

11 a.m. – TBA

Noon – Kaj Althaus

1 p.m. – Warehouse Cloggers

2 p.m. – Annie & Rod Capps

3 p.m. – Laura Russeau & The Bootstrap Paradox

4 p.m. – Michelle Held

5 p.m. – Ceolsige

6 p.m. – Billy King

A map of the fair can be found here.

Parking and shuttle information can be found here.

Music stage and activity information can be found here.

Visit www.theannarborartfair.com/artists