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Just Sayin', Does Ann Arbor Still Have it?

Anyone who follows this site knows we are fans of the Ann Arbor Art Fair and many, many of the members have "urban legend" stories to tell about their participation there. AND after the last 15 months the great news is that artists were on the streets of that city this week, July 15-17. Crossing our collective fingers for successful days for all involved.

We (AFI) hope that the changes made this year (three days only; three shows only, resulting in a smaller footprint and fewer artists) brought out the buyers and the our business has finally turned a corner. 

OMG -- 4 inches of rain on Friday! Were there any folks shopping? Did the artists close their booths? A great quote from Vasil Ivanov, a glass maker, "What are we made of sugar?"
More about the rainy day: https://www.mlive.com/news/ann-arbor/2021/07/

Did it look like this?

Or did it look like this?

Were you there? We are anxious to hear reports. 

Views: 259

Comment by Barry Bernstein on July 18, 2021 at 3:40pm

That picture with the streets full? It hasn't looked like that since 2004. Ann Arbor has been living off it's reputation for years. My feeling is that the Ann Arbor business model is dated. It worked when the crowds were there. The main thing you will hear if you talk to past supporters is that they don't go anymore because it's too big, too hot, and not enough parking.

Ann Arbor worked this year because the booths were spread out and there were a lot less exhibitors. Thus a bigger piece of the pie for everyone. I moved to Main Street a number of years ago and my sales have been acceptable, but, nothing like the 1990's. The advanced weather report had it raining all three days and some exhibitors didn't bother to show up. There were a lot of empty spaces on Main. That also benefited the people who showed up. If you asked the artists the overwhelming response would be that they liked the 6 feet between booths. Good luck with that for next year and beyond. One thing that surprised me was that I talked to a lot of people who hadn't done a show this year. Ann Arbor was their first. Those people have lost out on income. Every show I've done this year has been solid. I'm doing as many as I can. I believe next year will not be nearly as good as the stimulus money will be spent and the number of artists will increase diluting everyone's income. For this year, though, Ann Arbor was a pretty good 2 day show. It was a 3 day event down from 4 days. For me and others, Friday was a rainout. Many exhibitors didn't bother to show up. Some people, like me registered a big zero. I did talk to people who did OK in the rain. I was wet, cold, and miserable. Being a professional, I did show up.

Comment by Jim Parker on July 18, 2021 at 7:53pm

Much of what Barry said is true. The crowds were there, and many buyers, eager to re-engage with their favorite artists. Between the Guild’s Karen Delhey and the Original’s Mo Riley, the two major shows are well-represented. Organization is well done, load-in and load-out are relatively pain-free, and this year’s booths were well-spaced for Covid distancing. My sales were better than past years, partly due to my great location on Main Street, which gets a lot of foot traffic in the evening, and partly due to market scarcity (no shows for the past year and a half). Friday was dog-slow for me. Packed all of my work in a 10x17, it was cramped, and I think it kept people from browsing as much, and no one wants to carry artwork in the rain. But Thursday and Saturday were both good days. I liked the three day format, and could argue that this show should be two days, just like other shows, except that there is a LOT to take in during a single day. Closing at 7PM on a Saturday night is somewhat problematic. The streets were full of partiers, and made it difficult to break down. Many of the artists on Main Street chose to dolly out, because they couldn’t get a vehicle in for well over an hour after show close. The first van pulled in around 8:15. Many of the 2-D artists I spoke with did well. One friend said he had a great day on Friday, one of his top five sales days, even in the rain. There were buyers looking for big pieces for home and office, and I spoke to several who didn’t buy immediately, but provided solid leads. Not everyone had a good show, however. A high-end jeweler friend was disappointed in the energy and sales. Many people were just walking the show, visiting with friends, glancing at booths, but not really involved with the art. This is nothing new for Ann Arbor. A lot of folks are there just for the spectacle. It took work to convert lookers to consideration, and interested people were difficult to convert. Still, I was pleased with my sales. For a two day event, it was a good show.
For next year, I’d like to see it kept at three days, or even reduced to two, and the same spacing between booths. Better crowd control during the load-out would be an improvement, too.

Comment by Barry Bernstein on July 19, 2021 at 2:04pm

I, in turn, agree with what Jim said. Thursday and Saturday were good. I was in the first block between Huron and Washington and our load out was much easier than his block. Jim, was that Karen who was walking around? I was calling her Nicole and she didn't correct me. How embarrassing! I expressed my wish to have the booths spread out in coming years. My impression is that it isn't going to happen even though 99% of all artists at every show want that to happen. Yeah, 7PM is a little late for closing. I hate packing in the dark. 5PM is optimal. 6 is an acceptable compromise. I've already had one customer wanting another piece. I'm expecting more after show sales. The best part was seeing Jim, Karen, and all my friends that I miss. No Connie Mettler wandering around< however.

Comment by Connie Mettler on July 19, 2021 at 5:20pm

How sweet of you to remember me, Barry. Yep. I missed it again, but you were all in my thoughts. I was with my kids at the beach in Newport Beach, CA. I did keep checking with FB for details and was pretty astonished about the 4 inches of rain. But -- no thunderstorms or high winds. Something to be thankful for.

I thank the both of you long timers for reporting in. In my talks with Karen and Mo I got the impression that the long range plan going forward was for a 3 day show. I hope that happens for the good of all. Now if that other show in Royal Oak would only scale back to 3 days! 

Jim and Barry, were you both on Main Street? I see Marina Teraud's fine work in Jim's photo. New spaces for you, if so. We always liked Main Street partly because it was so easy access for customers and people would be there early in the day and hit us again on the way home. I hope this show will continue to improve. I surely miss all my friends and would love to sit down with you both and Karen too. 

Comment by Jim Parker on July 19, 2021 at 8:54pm

I forgot to mention that I saw Walt and Ruth Pinkus walking the show! You old-timers will remember them as the photographer duo who graced many of the shows in the last three decades. Retired now, and living in Arizona, they looked great, and were having a grand time looking up some of the other folks with history.

I’ve been Marina’s neighbor the past two shows. She is a tRemendous talent, with imagination and skills unmatched by anyone in her category. Her husband Uldis and I talked lighting, and he is good company. I believe she won Best in Show at Des Moines earlier this year.

Connie, I’ve been on Main Street three years now, not counting last year’s cancellation. Main Street gets a lot of dinner traffic, although it’s hard to say if many sales are consummated in the evening hours. I like the Guild show a lot — it’s been streamlined and improved by Karen Delhey’s apt management, and the firm hand of Nicole McKay. Karen’s partner Brian Bauer stepped up as volunteer Ops Manager, refused any payment, and worked like a dog. Many thanks to them for a tremendous show. I know they support the shorter show length — it would certainly be easier on the artists. I was dog tired yesterday, and barely recovering today (Monday). Thankful to have Sunday off. Krasl and A2 were almost back to back this year, which makes for a long week.

Comment by Jim Parker on July 19, 2021 at 8:57pm

Yeah, Barry, Karen and Nicki were both highly visible the entire show. Karen is a good hard worker, and cares much for the artists. If there’s a problem, she will work to get it solved. A real asset to the Guild.

Comment by Connie Mettler on July 20, 2021 at 3:08pm

Okay, now I have to attend next year, join the old timers walking the show ... Ruth, Walter, maybe Bonnie Blandford, Mary Strope ... who else?

I concur on Marina Teraud's art (and she and her husband also). Always amazing, unique, beautiful, full of unusual techniques and hidden details. I have a few of her pieces from when she first moved to the US from Latvia and started her art fair career at Arts, Beats & Eats.

So pleased (and not surprised) to hear about the efficiency of the staff at the Guild. It is a wonderful organization and is a real support to the artists involved. When I heard about the job opening for Operations I half considered stepping up myself to do it. 

Comment by Barry Bernstein on July 21, 2021 at 8:08pm

I've seen Walt and Ruth at a show before. Only us codgers would remember them.

Ann Arbor is the place where I see long time art fair artists. It was great seeing Jan aka Antlerroo, and Chris, and both you and Kozzo. And, last but not least Kristen Perkins. The morning of the rain day, I am walking around and there she was ready to go, with track lighting and a great looking booth.

One of the best kept secrets is that much of the business has moved from the original show to Main Street. Every year another artist moves to our part of the show. It gets better and better.

Connie, not only do I remember you, I probably think about you at least once a week. Btw, I'm doing East Lansing for the first time in 35 years. I'm sharing a room with Nels. I'm in booth 7.

I thought the Guild show was really well run. As I said, I love the spread out booths and the less exhibitors.

It's Wednesday and I'm still tired.

Comment by Barry Bernstein on July 21, 2021 at 8:19pm

Connie, I forgot to mention that Jessica Stoddard Ladd was also on Main. She won best of show in painting and Kristen won in jewelry.

Comment by Connie Mettler on July 21, 2021 at 9:19pm
This is so interesting. When we moved to Main Street I was not pleased because Norm had also been excepted into the original, in fact I was so concerned That we were going to such a bad place that I was throwing up the first morning. The choice for Main Street was a guaranteed space, and Ann Arbor was always our best show of the year, so we needed that guarantee If we wanted to stay in the business. I am used to hear That you have moved there also and some other very fine artists.

That is so cool about Jessica Stoddart. I am good friends with the Stoddart family and visited her in her studio in March. She has wonderful work. She and her brother, Jason, are doing very well in the art fair business. They grew up behind the booth and learned lots of things along the way, Besides being very talented.

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