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 Sat, Jul 24, 2010 : 8:37 p.m.

Vendors blame weather for downturn at Ann Arbor Art Fairs

By Heather Lockwood


Salem residents Carla Pariseau, left, and son John Pariseau watch the kinetic sculptures of Andrew Carson at the State Street Art Fair Saturday.

Angela J. Cesere | For

Kati Russell has been selling her art at the Ann Arbor Art Fairs for a decade and says sales were particularly slow this year, likely due to the unpredictable weather.

"This is the first year it's been slow," said Russell, a painter and resident of Akron, Ohio. "(My sales this year) are probably 5 percent of my normal sales."

Russell said she thinks a lot of artists pulled out early this year due to the down sales, and the fairs were closed early Friday due to thunderstorms.

"Those of us who are still here are the ones who live on our art - we can't afford to leave," said Russell, who sells reproductions of her original paintings, all of angels, which she began making after having what she says was a near death experience in 1996.

Jewelry maker Martin Taber, of Berkeley, California, also noticed a change in business from fairs past. "Business seems low compared to last year," he said as he displayed his gold and silver creations Saturday afternoon.


Hilary Wagner of Birmingham looks at the work of Jane Johnson at the State Street Art Fair.

Angela J. Cesere | For

Maggie Ladd, director of the South University Art Fair, said weather was "a hindrance" to fair attendance this year.

"We had a really great day today—all the days started out really well," Ladd said Saturday. "Because of the weather situation, the days got cut short."

Debra "Max" Clayton, executive director of the Guild of Artists and Artisans, which organizes the Ann Arbor Summer Art Fair, said while no official attendance estimates were available as of Saturday evening, she was pleased with this year's turnout.

"I think we really had one of the best attended fairs in a while. I think people really came out and enjoyed the event," Clayton said. "We always say (attendance is about) 500,000—I think we were definitely close to 600,000 this year."

One indicator, Clayton said, was that "throughout the event, there were lines at every trolley stop."

Vasudeva Mahavisno browsed the artists' booths Saturday with his wife Rekha Lalwani. The Ann Arbor couple said they attend the art fairs every year, usually all four days, but this year weather kept them away for part of it.

"I think the weather really has taken a toll. We typically come out all four days ... but not this year because of the rain," Mahavisno said. 

As far as purchasing any art, he said, "We're still looking. We haven't found any yet. There's some good artists."

It was a metal sculpture of a venus fly trap that caught Ed Halt's eye Saturday. Halt, of Roseville, stood with his son Ted Halt and their new piece of art.

"It was cool. We bought it," Ed Halt said. "We bought a few things—$400 later, you know how it is."

When asked what inspired him to travel from his home in Las Vegas to the Ann Arbor Art Fairs, Micky Leganik replied, "The art did."

"I think the first time (I came to the art fairs) was when I was 12 and now I'm 60," Leganik said as he strolled through the crowds with friend Alela Hennessy.

"I love the art fair. I come here every year," said Hennessy, of Toledo. "It's as busy as I remember it."

Ladd said art fair attendance will be determined by Ann Arbor Transportation Authority, trolley, and shuttle ridership and parking.

Heather Lockwood is a reporter for Reach her at or 734-623-2536. You can also follow her on Twitter.


Bill Wilson

Wed, Jul 28, 2010 : 7:34 p.m.

John, I have a habit of speaking up in front of groups and posing questions. I brought it up in front of 2 different groups, and I'd put the number at 70-80. To me, that's a lot. Now, here's my take: This resolution, in and by itself, my not have been a huge factor. But couple it with bad weather, the bad economy, and the general discomfort brought on by the crowds of people, and indeed, it's the proverbial straw on the camel's back. It was a foolish thing for the council to do, and demonstrated a real disconnect on the concil's part from the community.

John Q

Tue, Jul 27, 2010 : 3:19 p.m.

"I must weigh in for braggslaw. I spoke to many people who decided to boycott the fair because of the resolution. It played a huge role." Many? Huge? How many and how huge? If one actually reads the article, there's no indication that the number of people attending was down at all. Sales were down but that's no indication of whether people came or not. If the downturn was due to people boycotting the event, that should have been reflected in lower attendance.

Bill Wilson

Tue, Jul 27, 2010 : 9:51 a.m.

I must weigh in for braggslaw. I spoke to many people who decided to boycott the fair because of the resolution. It played a huge role. Another factor was the possibility of Pat Lesko as mayor. Many I spoke with have decided to seek other places for recreation early, as they're very upset with this possibility.


Mon, Jul 26, 2010 : 2:22 p.m.

Art Fair + U of M football games? Hmm...

Somewhat Concerned

Mon, Jul 26, 2010 : 9:07 a.m.

It is possible for an event to get too big to be convenient to get to or to navigate once one gets there. Once such a tipping point is reached, the event shrinks because people don't think they will enjoy going. The traffic has gotten so bad, the parking has become so expensive that any further inconvenience, such as potentially bad weather, looms larger than in years when traffic and parking and general inconvenience were not as big a factor. Ann Arbor is not built for giant events.

Tom Teague

Mon, Jul 26, 2010 : 8:36 a.m.

I went to Ann Arbor's own and pulled up historical data for the Art Fair from 2005 to 2010. While not record-setting, 2010 was much hotter and much rainier than the average Art Fair during those six years. So, I guess that the bad economy + bad weather + high gas prices + Beer Fest + anonymous commenters swearing that they didn't go to Art Fair = lower sales. Actually, I pulled the data for the period 2001 to 2010, but just ran out of time to look at the whole data set. If you try this at home, note that rainfall of 0.0 inches for Saturday, July 24 doesn't seem to be accurate, so possibly there's trailing data. When I'm really bored again I'll finish the analysis and submit it for peer review.


Mon, Jul 26, 2010 : 7:58 a.m.

Read my post better ghost. I would probably have spent around 100 dollars. I said 4 of us didn't go that went last year. I get your reference to small minded people, you always stoop to calling people names, we all learned something in grade school about people that have to do that. As well, I can say that I am not a legend in my own mind. As for Ben calling boycotting the fair "misplaced", I disagree. A2 City Council now knows that their "misplaced" deeds has caused "pain" to their city financially to some extent. Hopefully, moving forward they will think how their actions will impact the residents and those nearby residents that visit the city on a regular basis. Good Day


Sun, Jul 25, 2010 : 11:23 p.m.

I'm no expert on previous art fairs, but it seems that the weather this year was particularly severe. It wasn't just the storms, it was the humidity as well. I realize it's July in Michigan, but when the heat index is over 100, it's a little extreme. I personally attempted the art fair Friday morning but just couldn't stay long; it was some of the worst humidity I can remember feeling in all of my years living in Michigan, and that was at 9 am. It was a much different story than when I browsed the fairs over the course of a couple days last year. In terms of the content of the fairs, from the admittedly small sample I looked at, it seemed mostly unchanged from last year. In other words, nothing distinctly different or worse. But also nothing particularly unique if you came last year. Also, this is the first I have heard of a supposed boycott on the basis of the city council resolution, and I suspect the few people that engaged in it had absolutely no effect. Boycotting the art fairs, or anything else, on this basis seems ridiculous to me. The art fairs, as well as many Ann Arbor businesses, etc., have nothing to do with the specific decisions of the city council. Who knows how many people that support Ann Arbor also disagreed with this particular decision. To those that participated in this, as ineffective as it was: Take your opinions to the city council. Don't misplace your opinions about them and harm people that are completely unrelated to the issue. A misplaced, uninformed "boycott" is just as bad as a misplaced, unnecessary resolution.


Sun, Jul 25, 2010 : 8:27 p.m.

@braggslaw, Ditto my friend, four of us stayed home that would have gone to the fair and spent money. Apparently the weather did a lot more damage than we ever could have though. I figure our not going reduced revenues around 400-700 bucks depending on what might garner one's attention. @Ghost, Wow, that must have been some pretty tasty and expensive beer to pay 30 bucks friday night and 40 bucks saturday night to attend a beer fest. Even on a good night I couldn't drink 40 bucks worth of Guiness or Heineken!!! Where did the profit go from the beer fest, the ACLU? ROFL


Sun, Jul 25, 2010 : 6:36 p.m.

I have been going to the Ann Arbor Art Fairs for a long time now. I didn't go this year but I don't think I missed anything except maybe a sale on water colors.


Sun, Jul 25, 2010 : 4:48 p.m.

yeah, what's up with the siren? I thought they only sounded it when there was a tornado spotted...seems like nowadays every time it rains you hear it.

Marshall Applewhite

Sun, Jul 25, 2010 : 2:38 p.m.

I actually do believe that we can blame the weather here. On top of this, the guy who mistakenly sounded the tornado siren should be sued by these artists.

John Galt

Sun, Jul 25, 2010 : 2:29 p.m.

The lousy economic situation is the most likely reason for lower attendance. I'm sure the weather had an impact, but people are more concerned with keeping a roof over their heads and food on the table.


Sun, Jul 25, 2010 : 1:58 p.m.

The Ann arbor Fairs would fair better (no pun intended) if it were done in the spring or fall months; its just getting too uncomfortable in July.


Sun, Jul 25, 2010 : 1:30 p.m.

I live in town and frequently go downtown. There is no way attendance was anywhere near past Art Fairs. Saturday after the rain it was early, a nice day, and half the people of last year, or past years. Other days were sparse also. Everyone needs to face the fact that the economy is still bad. All those Obama shovel ready jobs are only picking the construction companies as winners. If you work at CVS, Meijers, a restaurant, etc, how did the Recovery Act help you? It didn't help me and it didn't help the artists this past week (well, maybe the road to the poorhouse is paved now).


Sun, Jul 25, 2010 : 1:23 p.m.

simplest explanation was that #1) the economy isn't in great enough shape for people to be slurging on high price art items and #2) the weather certainly didnt cooperate. Call me silly, but when the severe weather and 60 mph winds hit, I didnt think it was prudent to be outside shopping. This had nothing to do with the stupid city resolution. I dont agree with the resolution either braggslaw but that is a pretty weak excuse not to support the local economy. I just think times are tough and people dont want to spend.


Sun, Jul 25, 2010 : 1 p.m.

Skipped the fair Thursday due to bad weather, went down Friday and was rained out, missed most of Saturday morning due to bad weather. Still went down Saturday afternoon and had a great time. Always fun at all 4 of the art fairs. Always a good time. I'll be there again next year.

Tom Joad

Sun, Jul 25, 2010 : 12:40 p.m.

I appreciated the scared most of the crowds. Yesterday was an easy day to walk around. The so-called art was dreadful this year, very few original oil paintings. The art fair is replete with trinkets, crafts, and cutesy crap. Even the juried art left much to be desired. Coupled with a crashing economy, the rain is the least of their problems selling 'art' Once again 'it ain't art and it ain't fair!'


Sun, Jul 25, 2010 : 11:54 a.m.

The weather was a bit wetter than normal - and heavy enough storms to discourage people from attending. I also believe the art fair thing is getting overdone - there are art fairs every weekend throughout the area. While some of them are more "craft" fairs, it is hard for folks to distinguish.


Sun, Jul 25, 2010 : 11:24 a.m.

Ghost, ROFLMA DSAMS I voted with my feet and dollars, as many did. My supporting data would be me and a number of families I am close with. While not scientifice it shows how unhappy many people are with the idiocy of the city...


Sun, Jul 25, 2010 : 10:49 a.m.

ghost...what does ROFL mean? ( im a computer luddite and have never 'texted ' in my life)


Sun, Jul 25, 2010 : 10:45 a.m.

or maybe the stuff is over priced and people are choosing to spend money more wisely. Weather is always a factor in Ann Arbor every year, this year is no different.


Sun, Jul 25, 2010 : 10:45 a.m.

im sure edward murrow's ghost is right about the non- relevance of the city council arizona motion to poorer art sales at the fair( and i too was opposed to the city council on that one). the economy generally stinks for discretionary purchases like art ( as opposed to discretionary purchases that numb the beer). the recent closing, for purely economic reasons, of a fine and long running local art gallery in chelsea is a case in point ( particularly sad/meaningful to me because they featured my work).


Sun, Jul 25, 2010 : 10:28 a.m.

xmo, I don't know how quickly or easily they could simply move indoors. Most of those guys/gals spent a good portion of a day setting up. I for one didn't attend this year because after working it for the last 3 years, I could finally relax and stay away from the sweaty masses of people and expensive wares. =)


Sun, Jul 25, 2010 : 10:08 a.m.

I have to wonder if Beerfest in Ypsilanti has been taking a toll on "Art""Fair". Beer fest attendence is way up (another sell out), "Art""Fair" attendence way down. I mean, if you have to choose between craft beer and a craft show, I think beer wins every time in Michigan.


Sun, Jul 25, 2010 : 9:28 a.m.

I love how they blame the weather. Every year there is one bad day and one or two hot days. Down the road at the Beer Fest in Ypsi things went on as planned - appeared to be the same crowds even with the storm Friday...are the beer fest people blaming the weather?

just a voice

Sun, Jul 25, 2010 : 9:02 a.m.

this year the rain was way worse than in the recent past, seen a few strong storms do real damage (helped a guy pick up his booth that got blown over by maynard wind tunnel), but never as much actual rain fall. Was this the worse ever on record, anyone? Also, the Guild rep seems to be drinking the cool-aid too much, when she said "throughout the event, there were lines at every trolley stop.", I have to wonder if that ridership may be that people used them more BECAUSE of the hot weather, and doesn't show good crowd number. I talked to three artist about their sales number, one was up, one was even to last year (but felt with better weather would have been up), and one who was down, about 20/25%.


Sun, Jul 25, 2010 : 9:02 a.m.

The Ann Arbor Art Fair is a tradition and I enjoy the outside event in the middle of downtown for a few days. It brings people from all over to our town. The weather was a disappointment, however I find something to purchase every year. I would like to see it continue. The weather will always be a factor to a consider for any outside event.


Sun, Jul 25, 2010 : 8:43 a.m.

It's true that it rains every year... but this year really was exceptional. I don't recall there ever being 2 days with tornado siren warnings going off during the fair before!

scooter dog

Sun, Jul 25, 2010 : 8:32 a.m.

Happens every year,at art fair time. Hot Humid Lotsa rain If this is news to all you vendors,you must be living on another planet. Welcome to michigan


Sun, Jul 25, 2010 : 8:24 a.m.

Many (including me) stayed away because of the City resolution on the Arizona law. The art fair was a financial disaster this year because of the city city resolution... not the weather.

Hot Sam

Sun, Jul 25, 2010 : 7:36 a.m.

FYI...It rains EVERY year!!!


Sun, Jul 25, 2010 : 7:06 a.m.

xmo - The last thing we need is another expansion of the art fair. I love the A2 Art Fairs (all four) but the event has become so large it makes it difficult for artists to earn enough profits to make the trip here worthwhile. I don't support a downtown conference center - but that's another story.


Sun, Jul 25, 2010 : 6:49 a.m.

Its too bad we do not have a downtown hotel and conference center where at least some of the ART FAIR could continue despite the weather! It also would increase revenue for the city and create jobs.