Shadow Art Fair takes a final bow, then it is no more
Jeffrey Smith | AnnArbor.com file photo
"This is the last one," confirms Shadow Art Fair co-founder Mark Maynard.
Over the last few years, the organizers of the annual one-day art and music festival have struggled with what to do with it. They have gone back and forth, trying to grow it and then shrinking it back down. In an interview last year, they played around with the idea of corporate sponsors. And they asked themselves, should it change?
The decision, ultimately, is to discontinue it after its 15th installment since 2006.
The final Shadow Art Fair will take place at the Corner Brewery on July 20.
When asked why, Maynard says, "it's the right time to go out on top."
"When we started it, it was more unique. That was before things like Handmade Detroit and a bunch of other DIY art fairs were around. There's been an explosion of things like this," Maynard says.
Now with a number of DIY arts events around, "we felt like that niche is being served," says Maynard. That was the point of founding Shadow Art Fair in the first place, according to him. Now, when the popular blogger is rereading posts from back at the beginning, "we've accomplished what we wanted to accomplish," he says.
"Things took root and blossomed into a lot of cool little things," Maynard says.Cre Fuller, who helped start DIYpsi, came to one of the first Shadow Art Fairs. "That was when he started making his robots. Then he was in a bunch of them and got an arts space at SPUR Studio. Now he is making them professionally and started DIYpsi," Maynard says as an example of the ripple effect.
"There are concentric circles going out from this thing we started," he adds.
But now, it's time to go off the air, "like Seinfeld—before it starts getting sucky."
The vision of the 5 original founding members, called the Michigan Design Militia, was to focus more attention on showcasing unique art and music than making money. Every Shadow Art Fair has featured some outside-the-box, interactive art. Vendor fees only covered cost. And donations at the door were merely suggested. Some of the money, which was not spent on event costs, was spread back out into the community through mini-grants.
"There is still a struggle," Maynard says. "Part of me thinks it would be cool to start something that keeps going and becomes an industry, like the Ann Arbor Art Fair."
"But that's just not what we were about when we started this," he says. "We weren't about being successful like that."
However, another event they plan, Krampus Costume Ball in winter, will still happen.
Maynard is the only original member of the Michigan Design Militia who still runs Shadow Art Fair. The others have either moved away or decided to focus on work and family—they have all been doing it as volunteers. However, a few years ago, local artist Chris Sandon joined the fray and the two of them plan Krampus, inspired by a European myth about Santa's alter-ego.
"I think Chris and I would both rather put our efforts into the Krampus thing. There is a lot of room to do more interesting, unique stuff there," Maynard says.
The final Shadow Art Fair will be what fans come for. There will be vendors selling art and other wares, bands out in the back beer garden, a new Shadow Brew made by the Corner Brewery especially for the event, and funky interactive art happenings.
Instead of seeking submissions from participants, this year, they decided to invite back some of their favorites and a few new ones - a final All-Stars show, if you will.
Aside from the vendors and bands, several people are doing funky interactive art projects.
Donald Harrison, former director of the Ann Arbor Film Festival, will present an interactive video booth, in conjunction with Tyree Guyton's Heidelberg Project in Detroit.
Vinnie Massimino will fax artworks to people at an un-manned booth.
Andy Claydon made a bike that plays heavy metal chords on the spokes when peddled.
"It will be special for us. We just want to have a big party," Maynard says.