It’s Michigan’s ultimate outdoor summer art bonanza: three art fairs with more than 600 artists in one downtown area.
The Ann Arbor Art Fair, considered the largest juried art fair in country, returns to downtown Ann Arbor on Thursday and runs through Saturday. Originally canceled earlier this past spring for the second year in a row because of state COVID restrictions, organizers changed course in late May after guidelines changed and the show is now on.
There will be some changes this year — about a third fewer artists so organizers can spread out the ones they have and the festival timeline has been shortened from four days to three — but the art fair that “people know and love” will be pretty much the same, said Maureen Riley, executive director of the Ann Arbor Steet Art Fair, The Original.
“The thing about the art fair and what’s new every year is the art,” said Riley. “Artists are continually creating new pieces, changing their style. The art always changes.”
The Ann Arbor Art Fair, which will cover its usual 30-block radius, is actually three art fairs in one: the Ann Arbor Street Art Fair, The Original; Ann Arbor Summer Art Fair; and the Ann Arbor State Street Art Fair. A fourth fair that’s been included in the past, the South University Art Fair, has been absorbed by the Summer Art Fair.
All told, 600 and 700 artists working in a range of mediums will be featured this year, including photographers, ceramicists, jewelry makers, sculptors, woodworkers and more.
“We have a lot of longtime returning artists and artists that are brand new,” said Riley.
Detroit sculptor Austen Brantley will be one of this year’s featured artists. Brantley discovered sculpture as a junior at Berkley High School when a ceramics teacher saw his potential. He recently unveiled a sculpture in Maryland of Ernest Burke, a former Negro League pitcher.
“As an artist, I often think about legacy and what we leave behind when we leave,” said Brantley in a post on Facebook about the Burke sculpture. “What we truly give to the future generations once we’re gone.”
Some COVID protocols will be in place at this year Ann Arbor Art Fair. There will be more space between artists to allow for some social distancing. Hand sanitizer stations will be in place throughout the festival. And Riley said they eliminated a lot of common areas to prevent gatherings. There will be no stages this year, activity zone for families, demo area or food courts.
But local restaurants will likely be expanding their presence outdoors so there will be food options, said Riley.
She said it’s been particularly challenging to plan this year’s festival, especially in a shortened time frame and with hiring seasonal staffing.
Still, it’s the art that will shine. And even with fewer days for this year’s festival, that’s a change that artists have requested for years, said Riley.
Ann Arbor Art Fair
10 a.m.-9 p.m. July 15 & 16
10 a.m.-7 p.m. July 17