FESTIVE ANN ARBOR ART FAIRS BOAST 1,260 ARTISTS OVER 28 CITY BLOCKS,
"Like 4 football Saturdays on one day, the art fair draws more than 500,000
visitors and is Michigan’s highest attended outdoor cultural event."
That’s the headline in the Ann Arbor News. Does this sound like fun to you? If yes, you’ll be happy to hear that there’s not only art. Every single merchant in town pours all of their finest schlock out onto tables that cover every single sidewalk for 28 city blocks. And then, there are 43 vendors selling elephant ears and butterfly potato chips, 18 kabob stands, almost 200 lemonade stands. There will be 6 running blocks of folks grilling meat that’s been sitting out in the hot sun for hours and plenty of ice cream to wash it down with.
The Ann Arbor Art Fair started in 1960 so it’s been a permanent fixture of the third week in July since before I came on the scene. It’s grown, it’s mutated, it’s transmogrified. Did you catch War of the Worlds at the theater recently? You know how those tripods rose right out of the street? I heard that happening here in town all through last night.
I admit, the art is great. It’s true when they say the best artists in the country try to get into this one. Parts of it are juried and highly selective with artists submitting slides year after year in an effort to get a tiny 8 ft square booth. The problem is, the crowds stand six deep at every booth and it’s hard to get near anything; rather one shuffles along in a mass of seating humanity in wilting heat.
The weather report has been the same the third week of July for over 40 years:
Wednesday- sunny, 96, humid.
Thursday- cloudy, 96, with afternoon high winds, thunderstorms.
Friday- sunny, 96, humid.
Saturday- sunny, 96, humid.
We have a guest artist, John Costin, staying with us this week. We live within a mile of campus so it’s a good location for him. He does incredible etchings on copper plates and then finishes them with oil paint. I guess you won’t be surprised to hear that his primary subject matter is birds and fish and flowers. Some kind of karma brought us together at a fair we happened on in Florida and I fell hard for his work. These prints of life size waterfowl are eye candy of the very best kind. Yesterday, John and his assistant, Mike, were doing framing in the dining room and that was fun to watch. The link will give you a good view of his craft. Just try to ignore the photo of him with Laura Bush taken at the White House: he was invited to make a bird ornament for the White House Christmas tree.
There’s a ritual here among townies this week. Everyone asks all their friends and neighbors if they’re going to Art Fair and the response involves a lot of eye-rolling and groaning. We all agree that for four days you can’t park, move, breath, run errands or buy ice within ten miles of campus.We all claim we’re going to avoid it like the plague. And then, almost to a one, we all go to Art Fair. I try to go to the few places where I know my favorite artists are set up, usually the first day. Often these artists sell out quickly as they have an established following, year after year. And while there, I try to remember that Ann Arbor just sent me one of the highest property tax bills imaginable and it’s due July 31.
John’s booth is in the section of the fair that is reserved for really fine art. These will be booths of glass, sculpture, paintings and fiber that are museum quality and well worth braving the crowds to see. I’ll grit my teeth and head up later this afternoon so I can post photos tonight. I’m hoping this first Ann Arbor experience is a great one for John.
I guess the worst thing would be to have your office right in the middle of that mess. Patti, of BCMA, works in the Office of Budget and Planning for the Big U and this week is the annual budget report to the Regents. Thus, she’s pulling all-nighters, and it’s just as well because she can’t get in or out of the place anyway. Today is her birthday. HAPPY BIRTHDAY, PATTI!