You are viewing this article in the archives. For the latest breaking news and updates in Ann Arbor and the surrounding area, see
Posted on Wed, Jul 20, 2011 : 5:45 a.m.

Ann Arbor Art Fair seeing positive signs, weather worries as event starts annual 4-day run

By Jennifer Eberbach


Ann Arbor Fiberarts Guild member Terry O'Toole looks at the guild's work at their booth at the Sate Street Area Art Fair on Wednesday.

Angela J. Cesere |

Will the weather affect your decision to attend? Take our poll or leave a comment at the end of this post.

Ann Arbor Art Fair artists are ready for the big event, which starts today and runs through Saturday, July 23. 1,100 of them have filled booths with their artworks. Many speaking during setup day Tuesday were optimistic that the fair will bring them plenty of buyers and enjoyable experiences, and they are trying not to get fazed by the weather forecast—it is going to be a hot one. (Related story: Excessive heat warning issued; 8 ways to beat the heat)

This year’s Art Fair—which annually draws an estimated half-million visitors—has brought back many artists who have exhibited numerous times before. So many artists returning over the years is a sign that sales in Ann Arbor generally go well and participating is worth it financially, according to State Street Area Art Fair Director Kathy Krick.

“Last year, we had the highest return rate of people who we re-invite. Almost 99 percent wanted back in, which I think is a good gauge for the economy. When you invite people back, they don’t all come. They might go do other shows or do a different circuit the following years. So many coming back means they did at least OK. My expectation for this year’s fair is that we will be able to accommodate everyone and that more than 1,000 artists can all make some money,” she said.

Debra “Max” Clayton, who directs the Summer Art Fair (run by The Guild of Artists & Artisans, and one of four separate fairs that make up the event) is “noticing an increase in membership to the Guild right now. The membership has increased, I would say, about 15 percent in the last two years. That was after membership held steady for a couple of years,” she said.

“We’re not just one of the oldest fairs in the country for no reason. We are still around because people want to come back. Artists struggle sometimes, and they look for fairs that are going to help them survive financially. I think they look to the Ann Arbor Art Fair for that reason.”

Despite the economic recession in Michigan, Krick said “the Ann Arbor Art Fair is a good gauge that the economy is returning,” Krick says.

More on the fair

Additional Ann Arbor Art Fair stories:

Terry Ferguson, an Iowa artist selling his stone carvings at the Summer Art Fair near the corner of Main and Huron streets, has not noticed much of a recession when it comes to sales. “The last four years at the Ann Arbor Art Fair, sales have been good. You couldn’t tell there was a recession. I cater to people with affluent needs, and while the recession might have hurt a little bit, my wife Anne (a jewelry maker) and I aren’t suffering from it. When people see something they like, they get it,” he said.

Laura Lee Junge’s oil paintings will be for sale at the South University Art Fair on South University near East University. She said, “If I didn’t do well enough, I wouldn’t come back. Sales have been very consistent. It seems like every year I do about the same. You also meet a lot of people who buy things throughout the year as well. You can look at it as good advertising.”

Mike and Karen Baum, a couple from Lebanon, Ohio, will be selling their “high-fired decorative and functional stoneware” at the Summer Art Fair on Main between Washington and Huron. They have been showing at the Ann Arbor Art Fair since 1991, and “won’t miss a show,” Mike said. Out of the 17 or so shows they do across the East Coast and South each year, “Ann Arbor is definitely number 1 or 2.” The Baums say sales were declining for a while, since around 2000-2002. But last year, “our sales went up by 20 percent. We figure it’s going to do the same again this year, unless the heat stops people,” he said with a laugh.

New Jersey-based mixed-media sculptor William Skrips, who began selling his “funky” found object art at the Street Art Fair, the Original for the first time last year, returns to Ingalls Mall this year. The Art Fair brought him “moderate sales,” and he enjoys the people who attend. “I thought it was a nice, intelligent audience,” he said.

With a weather forecast of four days in the 90s, some wonder whether the heat will be a deterrent.

Kelly Hewitt of New Lothrop, who makes and sells dolls with her mother Marlene Denn, is “afraid it’s going to be dangerously hot this year,” she said while setting up her booth at the Summer Art Fair on Main between Washington and Liberty. “Because of the heat, I really don’t have many expectations for this year. I just think it’s too hot for people to get out, and when they do they are going to be like zombies walking through here—and they’re not going to want to stop and buy things. I hope I’m wrong, of course.” Despite her concern about the heat, the Ann Arbor Art Fair is still “definitely the best one I do every year,” she said.

Anne Flora, who is part of the Ann Arbor Fiberarts Guild’s booth at the State Street Area Art Fair on State near the corner of the Diag, is “optimistic” about the weather.

“We are always concerned about the heat because we aren’t sure if people will want to try on or buy clothing on a hot day. But generally, those people who have been selling here for years and years have a following and their customers look for them. When I sell my felt hats, I don’t find the heat to really be a problem, because people know me and they know it’s a chance to get my hats,” she said.

Ferguson is not fazed by the heat. “Lots of people complain about the heat, but I’m not one of them. I like hot weather!” he said. He even thinks the heat might help with sales: “In my experience, people tend to buy a lot in hot weather. They don’t spend a lot of time looking around in the booth and they ain’t coming back. They are in and out, and if they see something they like they grab it.”

The Ann Arbor Art Fair runs 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday; and 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Saturday. Visit its website for more complete event details, and watch for full coverage.



Wed, Jul 20, 2011 : 11:23 p.m.

i hope it's 100 degrees and rains all day every day.then maybe this event will be cancelled forever.


Wed, Jul 20, 2011 : 7:18 p.m.

I don't even want to leave the house, unless absolutely necessary, for the next couple of days. I'd rather have another month of winter, than a week of weather like this - YUCK! You couldn't get me anywhere near the art fair anymore, regardless of the weather. The thrill is gone, and has been for quite a few years.


Wed, Jul 20, 2011 : 5:04 p.m.

I hope that people come out. But from my experience, there's not much worse than trying to walk through those crowded streets in hot, humid weather under a blazing sun. It absolutely takes the fun out of it for me. But, if the organizers want to hold the Fair during the hottest week of the year, they have to accept the results.


Wed, Jul 20, 2011 : 2:08 p.m.

No, the weather won't impact my decision to go. I wouldn't set foot in that murky chaos if it was 72 degrees with a pleasant breeze.

another kathy

Wed, Jul 20, 2011 : 2:02 p.m.

Our daughter takes vacation days and comes to stay with us to attend the Art Fairs every year. Several artists look forward to seeing her each year. We let her know over a week ago that we'd meet her downtown for dinner and see a bit of the art in the evenings. We used to trek all through everything with her. We simply can't do that any more; especially in this heat.

Tom Cormie

Wed, Jul 20, 2011 : 1:45 p.m.

Is that like Mos Defnitely

Sara Bahnmaier

Wed, Jul 20, 2011 : 1:20 p.m.

It might be nice to start a tradition of siesta.


Wed, Jul 20, 2011 : 1:26 p.m.

Till Art Fair is over? What a great idea!! See everyone next week!


Wed, Jul 20, 2011 : 12:58 p.m.

Radical suggestion: give the artists two year's notice and then change Art Fair to May. It would be the year's most lovely weather for artists and buyers. After some chaos of changing schedules everyone will enjoy this event instead of trying to endure the year's hottest week and at least one storm. Some artists might drop out but more would sign up and a lot more people would come if they weren't getting heat stroke!


Wed, Jul 20, 2011 : 8:51 p.m.

I think your idea of changing the date is a good one--especially giving artists plenty of notice. July is a time of heat and sudden severe thunderstorms. I was thinking the other day that a September Art Fair might be nice. The weather is still sunny and mild, and usually the rains of fall haven't arrived yet. Plus, the students are back (this could be a good or bad thing). It might be a nice way to say goodbye to summer and celebrate fall.

Mike Martin

Wed, Jul 20, 2011 : 3:56 p.m.

Yeah May is very often too cold to enjoy strolling outside. It can be beautiful. But, more often is not. In our northern climate mid summer is most likely to be the best for a huge crowd.


Wed, Jul 20, 2011 : 1:25 p.m.

this past April & May were both pretty crummy (cold & wet) a good amount of time. Come to think of it June was no peach either and now we may as well be on the gulf side of Mexico =/


Wed, Jul 20, 2011 : 1:22 p.m.

May? This May was on the cold and rainy side. Let's face it. No matter when it's scheduled, there's a good chance that the weather will be less than pleasant. This is Michigan, after all. :)


Wed, Jul 20, 2011 : 12:21 p.m.

I'm volunteering so I'll be there. Please come ask me a question at the Street Fair info Booth (and bring water... I'm going to need it!)


Wed, Jul 20, 2011 : 11:35 a.m.

I'll avoid mid-day and try to go near opening or closing time. I can't stand to be out in this heat but I hate to miss the art fair.

Craig Lounsbury

Wed, Jul 20, 2011 : 11:27 a.m.

I only ever go to the fair kicking and screaming. But my wife and some of her east side peeps were going to go but have canceled their plans due to the heat.


Wed, Jul 20, 2011 : 11:13 a.m.

It would be nice if you spelled "definitely" right in the poll. Sigh.

Bob Needham

Wed, Jul 20, 2011 : 1:57 p.m.

That's fixed, thanks