Ann Arbor, Mich. — On a typical year, there would over 1,000 artists selling their creations on the University of Michigan central campus in mid July. However, this year is anything but normal. The Ann Arbor Art Fair is returning from July 15-17 with about 600 artist booths.
I spoke exclusively with Maureen Riley, executive director of the Street Art Fair, The Original to learn more about this year’s art fairs.
I’m so excited this years art fair is a go. What changed to allow you and other organizers to reverse course?
“When we were planning the art fair, it was still the governor’s ‘Next to Normal’ plan so there was no predictable date for when we would be able to open without restrictions,” Riley explained. “We decided that we couldn’t take the chance even we were hopeful but there’s no option but to cancel. Once she changed the protocols and set a date for reopening, we were able to do the show so we did.”
Will you have the same number of artists as in years past in your section?
“Actually, we will have fewer artists. The whole Ann Arbor Art Fair–we’re occupying the same footprint but there will be fewer artists throughout. It’s about a third fewer overall. That’s to allow people to spread out, hopefully ease any congestion and make it COVID safer. Overall, it’s about 600-700 [artists]. I have 149 and mine is always the smaller of the fairs.”
Will there be art demo zones and art activity areas like we’ve seen before?
“Unfortunately, we are not. We decided early on that we would eliminate anything that would encourage congregating as part of the safety protocols. Once we were able to go ahead, there wasn’t enough time to bring those elements back online. Unfortunately, those are tabled this year.”
How about live entertainment and food trucks?
“That’s the same. There will be no food courts this year at all. There will be a lot more restaurants out on the street for patio dining that extends into the street. The traditional food courts sort of like the stages, by the time we could go there just wasn’t enough time to put these elements back in place.”
However, the Summer Art Fair section (produced by The Guild) will offer two stages of free entertainment. ‘Summer Sounds’ music stages will be located at the corner of Main & Liberty and the corner of State & South University. It will feature entertainment by local musicians such as Jill Jack, RFD Boys, Nadim Azzam, and London Beck.
Looking at the map, I saw the South University Art Fair is no more. Can you explain what happened?
“Unfortunately, the association producing the South University Art Fair dissolved this past winter. They were a victim of COVID and changing times. The Summer Art Fair, produced by the Guild of Artists and Artisans, is turning the corner from their normal footprint on State Street and will have artists on South University. So it won’t be noticeably different, it’s just produced by a different entity this year.”
What you want people to know who haven’t been before?
“This is definitely a different year. We think it’s going to be a fabulous year. We think people are eager to come out, get outdoors. We do encourage people who aren’t vaccinated to wear a mask. We are outdoors so we feel it is very safe for people. There’s just so much remarkable artwork at the Ann Arbor Art Fair. Now more than ever, the artists need support, the businesses need support, the hotels need support, all have been shut down for almost a year and a half. Please come out and support our community.”
About how many people are you expecting to have at the art fairs?
“It’s hard to say. In a normal year, we have about 400,000 but we are also one day shorter this year. It will be a three-day event instead of a four-day event. It’s hard to say but gauging from people’s response, we expect a pretty decent size crowd.”
Where are the best places to park?
“There’s plenty of parking lots in downtown Ann Arbor. You can find them on the Ann Arbor website or the art fair websites. What I would recommend is taking a shuttle and you don’t have to deal with parking. There will be shuttle buses that run from Huron High School on the north side and Briarwood Mall on the south side. It’s $5 round trip and free parking. It drops you off right at the door.”
The 2021 Ann Arbor Art Fair returns from July 15-17 on the beautiful University of Michigan central campus.
- For more info about the Street Art Fair, visit www.artfair.org.
- For more info about the Summer Art Fair, visit https://www.theguild.org/fair/ann-arbor-art-fair/
- For more info about the State Street Art Fair, visit https://statestreetdistrict.org/fair
Click Here for a larger, printable version of the map.