The Ann Arbor Art Fair is actually a collection of four award-winning art fairs that take place annually. They draw over 400,000 visitors each year, generally starting on the third weekend in July. In addition to art exhibits, the fairs feature music performances, demonstrations and interactive art activities.
The oldest of the four, the Ann Arbor Street Art Fair, The Original, was established in 1960 by a collaboration between the South University Businessmen's Association, Ann Arbor Art Association, and the Chamber of Commerce. At first, the Art Association doubted that artists would not want their work on display in the street, but this proved to be quite false. The first fair attracted 132 artists, 99 of them local, and by the third fair, 220 artists were displaying.
In 1967, the merchants in the State Street District, following in the footsteps of the Street Art Fair, decided to have an art fair in their neighborhood. The State Street Area Association runs and manages its own fair, which has attracted artists from around the world for more than fifty years. Many of the artists have even become members of the neighborhood. The State Street Art Fair is the premier event for the State Street District.
The Ann Arbor Summer Art Fair takes place in two locations, State Street from Madison to William, and along Main Street and Liberty to Fifth Avenue. Produced by The Guild of Artists & Artisans, a non-profit artist membership organization whose mission is to provide artists with marketing opportunities, it features 375 jury selected artists. It all began in the spring of 1970, about ten years following the premiere of the original Ann Arbor Street Fair. A group of young artists from Ann Arbor began working on a separate art fair which would give emerging artists, craftspeople and art students a chance to “take to the streets.” Calling it the Free Arts Festival, they set up this “free fair” on the University of Michigan’s “Diag” on Central Campus. Funding and management for this new fair was provided by the participating artists themselves. As these young artists matured so did the Free Arts Festival, which became an official member of the Ann Arbor Art Fair and in the mid-70s was renamed the Ann Arbor Summer Art Fair.
The Ann Arbor South University Art Fair is nationally recognized as a fine arts and crafts fair
Cover image by Joy VanBuhler is licensed under CC BY NC-ND 2.0. Information courtesy of Wikipedia.