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 Thu, Jul 18, 2013 : 4:37 p.m.

2013 Ann Arbor Art Fair enjoys a solid opening, despite heat

By Jenn McKee

The Mega Guide: Full coverage of the 2013 Ann Arbor Art Fair


Ann Arbor Art Fair goers browse the booths on Main Street on Thursday.

Melanie Maxwell |

Artists and fair directors report satisfaction with how the Ann Arbor Art Fair is going so far, despite the high temperatures and humidity levels.

“Obviously, it’s warm out,” said Maureen Riley, Ann Arbor Street Art Fair director. “But people are coming out, and the artists seem very happy.”

“It seems to be good,” South University Art Fair director Maggie Ladd said Thursday afternoon. “ … We know from anecdotal evidence that some big pieces sold yesterday. … Everyone’s in good spirits, which is usually a good signs that sales are being made.”

And because the Art Fair often falls on some of the year’s hottest, stickiest days, the artists often set up fans in their booths, and perennial Art Fair visitors adapt and plan accordingly.

“People who come now know how to prepare for it,” said “Max” Clayton, director of the Ann Arbor Summer Art Fair. “They dress for (the heat), they wear sunscreen, they bring bottled water, they plot out their trip, they plan to take the trolley, or plan to go to a restaurant and get a break in the air conditioning. That’s the nice thing about having this in Ann Arbor. There are so many good options.”


South University Art Fair artist Eric Sauvageau, who created this whimsical aluminum bench, had a good opening day in terms of sales, but reported a slowdown Thursday.

Photo by Jenn McKee |

Of course, with 4 fairs making up the Ann Arbor Art Fair (the State Street Area Art Fair is the fourth), visitors have truckloads of art options, too. But traditionally, Wednesday is one of the biggest days for artists, since serious collectors rush out to get first dibs.

“Everything looks good to me—the artists seem good,” said Clayton. “ … Wednesday is traditionally when collectors come prepared to buy. … And I’m seeing what we normally get, which is a very busy Wednesday.”

That held true for Summer Art Fair artist Victor Edwards, who makes comfy chairs from oak and rope. He’s been part of the Art Fair for 37 years, and been in the same Liberty Street location for 20 years.

“I had a good day yesterday,” said Edwards. “Not everybody did, but I did. … I get return customers who come with the intention of spending a thousand dollars with me. So yesterday I sold some big pieces, and multiple pieces.”

South University Art Fair metal artist Eric Sauvageau—from Harrisburg, Pennsylvania—also had a good start for this year’s Art Fair.

“I did very well yesterday,” said Sauvageau. “Today (Thursday) is slower, but I earned a good amount of money yesterday.”


Bowling ball jewelry made by State Street Art Fair artist Matt Cole.

Photo by Jenn McKee |

Bowling ball jewelry artist Matt Cole, part of the State Street Area Art Fair, offered a slightly different take on the ebb and flow of the Art Fair day.

“I would say that only 10 to 15 percent of my sales yesterday were made after 2 p.m.,” said Cole. “So I was having a good day until 2, then I just melted in the heat … Maybe it’d be OK to close the fair at 6 p.m. But then that might not be what the directors want.”

No, particularly since, on these hot days, many visitors wait until (the marginally cooler) evening to hit the fair.

But then again, as Ladd pointed out, “If you’ve lived through 103 degrees, then temperatures in the 90s don’t feel so bad.”

Jenn McKee is an entertainment reporter for Reach her at or 734-623-2546, and follow her on Twitter @jennmckee.


Marc Anthony

Fri, Jul 19, 2013 : 6:03 a.m.

Not the case at all, period.


Fri, Jul 19, 2013 : 3:12 a.m.

Sorry to hear the Art Fair isn't doing as well this year.

John Henry

Thu, Jul 18, 2013 : 11:30 p.m.

Nice to know nothing has changed. A2 residents love to gripe about the art fair, and say it ain't what it use to be lol. It's a 40 year old tradition!!


Fri, Jul 19, 2013 : 11:07 a.m.

this is the 54th Art Fair, so its more like a 50 year tradition, assuming they didn't gripe the first 4 years

John Henry

Thu, Jul 18, 2013 : 11:27 p.m.

Most artists would not mind smaller crowds, so long as they are spenders. The real collectors come out no matter the weather.

Jenn McKee

Sat, Jul 20, 2013 : 2:04 a.m.

Exactly. As I mentioned above, it's not incompatible to say that it didn't seem super-crowded on opening day while the artists report good sales. It's all about WHO comes out on the Fair's opening day, and how much they purchase.


Thu, Jul 18, 2013 : 11:14 p.m.

Rather than spin, there needs to be some data analysis done after the 4 day art fairs. With a large database of 1100 artists participating, why not ask them after the fair is over how they did in sales? How did this year compare to last year? Ask them if they will return. Ask them if the fees are too high. Ask them if the heat of recent years is a factor in returning or not returning. Do a survey and publish the results. I'd be interested in seeing how many of the 1100 artists are returners and how many are new. That would reveal satisfaction. Why don't we see real data rather than the spin?

Jenn McKee

Sat, Jul 20, 2013 : 2:02 a.m.

We usually provide a general wrap-up after the Fair ends, but it's difficult to gather and assess most the information you mention so immediately - especially since each fair, I would guess, has it's own evaluation system for artists to respond to. But we'll certainly seek out the most specific info we can get.


Thu, Jul 18, 2013 : 10:31 p.m.

I've never seen so few people at the Art Fair. I was able to walk up the middle of the road without touching another person. It's not just the heat. I hope somebody recognizes that.


Fri, Jul 19, 2013 : 5:39 p.m.

And on top of everything else, the Violin Monster gets told to get off State St.!!! Sheeeeeeeeesh.


Thu, Jul 18, 2013 : 10:40 p.m.

Agree totally. We were amazed at how many commercial booths there were this year with production pieces all the same, ticky tacky like cutsie Christmas decorations, CDs, sunglasses, painted men's ties, etc. We almost missed the "art on a stick" of years past. At least each one was slightly different. There were slightly higher end commercial booths with things like wood or leather objects, but again, many were alike and obviously done in a production manner. Booths with standard paintings or drawings were empty on the several passes we made down various streets. Clothing booths seemed prolific, again with many items duplicated.


Thu, Jul 18, 2013 : 10:05 p.m.

"Everything looks good to me—the artists seem good," said Clayton. " … Wednesday is traditionally when collectors come prepared to buy. … And I'm seeing what we normally get, which is a very busy Wednesday." This just isn't accurate. We were at the fair both Wednesday evening and Thursday afternoon. Wednesday was not very busy. It was dead. We have never seen so few people at the Art Fair and we walked all over the fair, hitting every section.

Jenn McKee

Sat, Jul 20, 2013 : 1:56 a.m.

I'd wager that everyone involved with the fair is most concerned, particularly on opening day, with the number of serious buyers who come with the intention of purchasing work, instead of sweating (so to speak) the overall attendance numbers. I think, for many artists, it's not so much about quantity in the early days of the fair, with crowds clogging (or not clogging) the streets, as it is about a higher percentage of motivated buyers coming out for a first-look.That's what everyone I spoke to seemed most focused on.


Thu, Jul 18, 2013 : 10:01 p.m.

"Obviously, it's warm out," said Maureen Riley, Ann Arbor Street Art Fair director. "But people are coming out, and the artists seem very happy." Huh? Ms Riley must have been at a different fair. It wasn't warm, it was scorching Wednesday, Thursday and will be tomorrow. The artists that my wife and I talked to on State and Main Streets Wednesday night and this afternoon were not seeing the usual crowds or customers. Many booths had the artists just sitting in empty booths, looking bored and hot, some on their iphones. We talked to several artists and they said it was a very slow start due to the weather. Many of the artists we talked to also said the fees were very high and that is a deterrent to coming back unless they make some big sales. Sure a handful of the 1,100 artists will make some sales, maybe a few will sell some large pieces. But we think that the majority of artists will be lucky to break even on fees, transportation, housing and food over 4 days. Ms Riley and other "directors" are spinning the attendance in typical PR fashion and downplaying the intense heat and humidity. The heat index is 105 today and it's the second of a 3-day heat advisory for AA. Hard to call that "warm."