2022 Ann Arbor Art Fair returns with live entertainment and autonomous shuttles

Attendees at the 2021 Ann Arbor Art Fair. (photo by Gloria Rzucidlo/AmericaJR)

Ann Arbor, Mich. — The Ann Arbor Art Fair returns to the beautiful University of Michigan central campus, July 21-23, 2022. It is the largest juried art fair in the United States with over 1,000 artists from across the country selling their works. Live entertainment is back this year as well.

Live artist demonstration and kids activity zones are on pause due to Covid-19 for 2022. Organizers hope to bring both back next year. One new addition to the art fair are autonomous shuttles to bring attendees around the three art fairs.

I spoke one-on-one with Angela Kline, the new executive director of the Ann Arbor Street Art Fair, the Original. She took over for longtime executive director Maureen Riley, who now serves as the artist coordinator.

Please give me some highlights of the 2022 Ann Arbor Street Art Fair.

“We have 200 artists in our footprint, there’s 1,000 artists in the art fair in total,” she explained. “We have three stages of music so that means music all day long. There will be amazing food—all of the restaurants down on the State Street district. In addition, we have some new food trucks on our footprint. We’re pretty excited about that.”

How will the art fair be similar or different from last year when there were Covid protocols in place?

“Last year, we were called just six weeks before it was scheduled not to happen and then we came together in a really beautiful way and put on kind of an abridged art fair. Fewer events but all of the artists were there. This year, we are back having our stages, many new activations. We have David Zinn doing chalk on the walk and lots of fun activities that are going to be happening around the fair. All of those wonderful things are back again.”

Will the footprint be similar to pre-2019 before Covid?

“Yes, it will be similar. Not many changes there.”

How many artists are there in the Street Art Fair section?

“We have 193 artists. In previous years, we’ve had around 200 but it always hovers around that. It just depends on other booth spaces that we need to set aside or what the university will allow each year.”

One of the things we missed last year was the live entertainment. I understand it will return for 2022.

“Yes. We have everyone from the Detroit Opera to Delta 88 and Timothy Monger and some really well-known (musicians) Annie Capps, and so many of my favorites, Brian Lilly, are going to be playing on our footprint. It’s the Fountain Stage is what we call it. Around the fountain stage we’ll have all of our new food trucks. In addition to that, the fountain stage will be completely tented with tables and chairs. It’s the perfect place to sit and listen to some acoustic music and have some food.”

I know one of the festival favorites are the artist demonstrations and art activity zones. Will those be happening this year?

“Those have been postponed this year—one more year for Covid. Mostly because so many children like to be a part of that. I’m a mother of very young children so I understand. Children under five can’t be vaccinated so we thought one more year. Those are our absolute favorite things to do so we plan on bringing that all back including our community party that we usually have before the art fair. That will be back next year.”

I noticed the art fairs are only three days instead of the usual four days. Can you explain why?

“I was on the board of directors 10 years ago and I was someone who ran an art studio for an artist. Four days is a long time for a fair. It’s a long time for artists to work. They’re making the work, marketing the work, bringing it across the country sometimes and setting up their booth. Having to stay for three days is the perfect amount of time. It also gives us that extra Sunday to get the city tidied up to resume its usual activities.”

How does it feel to be in your new role as the executive director of the Street Art Fair?

“Well, I love it. Maureen Riley was retiring but I get to work with her. She’s our artist coordinator. I get to learn from her and I get to see how the sausage is made. I get to see every part of how this comes together. As a mother of young children, it’s really fun because I get to show what you can do when you collaborate. The entire city comes together to make something really beautiful and I get to show them that.”

How do you suggest people get to the art fair? Can you tell me about parking and shuttles?

“All of the Ann Arbor parking structures are open. It’s $18 for the day. I think after 5 p.m. it goes down to $9. There’s also shuttles. Those come from Huron High School if you’re coming down from the North, there’s a park-and-ride there. You can just take a shuttle to the art fair. There is also one at Briarwood Mall. Those are sponsored by Trinity. It’s lovely that they do that. There’s really great signage so you know where to go.”

I heard about new autonomous shuttles to take attendees around the art fairs. Please tell me more about those.

“Another fun thing we’re trying out this year is May Mobility, which is automated cars. There will be stops around the art fair where you can take an automated car. It’s some fun technology we’re playing with this year.”

How many people are expected to attend the art fairs? What might the weather be like for those three days?

“I’m always a big fan of checking the Farmer’s Almanac. I’m hoping for the best weather possible. We usually have close to 500,000 attendees at the event. We’re praying for good weather as always.”

I noticed the South University Art Fair is no more. Can you explain what happened to it?

“Yes, that is due to Covid. They were unable to continue. We miss them. Karen Delhey at The Guild has really helped take over that footprint. There will be artists there. There will be no loss to the art fair other than our friends that headed that event.”

Any final comments before we wrap up? 

“We’re looking for volunteers. We have a really fun volunteer group. There’s usually about 200-250 volunteers. It’s really a great opportunity. We’re also looking for operations crew which is people who come in and set up and tear down and have a good time with the artists and vendors. Also, we’re looking for an organization like a non-profit, usually a kid’s organization like the Boy Scouts, where we donate to them, they come and help us sell water, move tables and chairs around, things like that. We’re open to sports clubs…one time we had a robotics club. If anyone is interested, they can reach out to me at akline@artfair.org.”

The Ann Arbor Art Fairs are scheduled for July 21-23, 2022 on the University of Michigan central campus.

For more information about the Street Art Fair, visit www.artfair.org.

For more info about all three Ann Arbor Art Fairs, visit www.theannarborartfair.com.

–video by Jason Rzucidlo / AmericaJR

3D Mixed Media by Shelley Evans of Laguna Beach, CA
Street performers at the 2021 Ann Arbor Art Fair.
Colorful paintings at the 2021 Ann Arbor Art Fair.
May Mobility autonomous shuttles will transport attendees between the three art fairs.
Official map of all three Ann Arbor art fairs. Click here for a larger version.

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