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More Ann Arbor - I Saw the Whole Thing! almost

Ann Arbor, MI - July 16-19, 2014 - 4 shows in one and plenty to see

Yes, it is true, Ann Arbor's weather was exactly what you want for an art fair. I was there the first day. I've attended it since 1976 (exhibited in one or the other of the shows from 1978-2006).

In our part of the country it is a rite of summer. At other shows in the region artists are continually being asked if they are going to be at Ann Arbor. You know how that goes.

I started at the western edge of the show on Main St., covered all of that street, all of Liberty, part of State, part of Thompson, North University, all of the original show and the South U. Show. There were steady crowds both days I was there (like John Leben in his post I stayed with friends in a nearby downtown hotel on Wed. night) for two days. 

(just want you to know that I did NOT punch up that sky -- beautiful --this is Michigan, not Colorado)

Wednesday afternoon I booth sat for Anne Schroeder for several hours as she "won" me in the Pledge Drive. Her work consists of amazing arrangements of feathers from exotic birds that are naturally shed and come from parrot rescue groups and rare bird aviaries.

The people interested in her work were an eclectic group: biologists, environmentalists and a couple from Xian, China, who wanted to know if I could ship the work there. Anne said she sold a couple of pieces last year at this show to someone from Dubai who had their own plane, to let her know there was no problem about importing these natural materials.

You just never know who it is standing in your art fair booth.

Michael Terra of Terra Cottage Ceramics

Photographer Lou Zale, always found on Main St. with his intriguing images


Dawn & Don Shurlow - for years they have done shows selling their heritage toys, finally leapt off the cliff
brought only his fine heirloom chairs. I hope he had a good show. The chairs were lovely.

I spent the first day on Main St. and Liberty. At the end of the day I was very disheartened. There is so much "product", so much that was not special, so much commercialism that I felt like going home. Very depressing. I was with my two art fair going friends, Sandy Dunstone and Barb Burkhardt.

I asked them about what I was seeing (I was sure the quality was worse than back when we were doing the show) and they both said it was just the same. It wasn't worse and besides my standards were too high. I'd seen too much good art over the years. They thought it was fine and enjoyed the variety.

Not to say I didn't see good art in these areas. There was plenty of it, but I didn't think about half of it wouldn't be better somewhere else. It was "product."

Then off to dinner with the best of friends, Nels Johnson and Larry Berman, and Barb and Sandy.

Thursday we started up North U. and covered the "original show", where suddenly the work looked like it was all "juried." Booth after booth of interesting fine work. Another beautiful day, nice crowds all day long, people carrying packages.

Ronna telling her story to collectors (who took home one of those large pieces)

Original show: Ronna Katz "won" me on Thursday. She does mono prints and monotypes with price points from $275 to $3000. Large abstract pieces that definitely have an appeal to another demographic. Ronna is very personable and never tires of explaining her processes and has a nice connection to her buyers. She had a good sales day while I was there and later told me it was her "personal best AA" for sales. Folks, she does not take credit cards! Somehow people pull out checks and out goes the work to its new home. I saw her make a nice sale to a couple who had come from Cleveland specifically to find new printmakers.

Using the space on the ground to continue showing your work in the Street Fair

In the Street Art Fair they also have large tents where you can exhibit

You hear patrons at AA saying they only go to the "original show." Others deliberately do not go there because the prices are higher, so they'll head to one of the other sections. 

Caught up with Greg Lawler on Washington St.

We participated in the State Street Show in what we called the "pants" department (because of all the merchant goods right next to the art exhibits) for 14 years and always had good sales. Then we went up to Main St., where we found had a whole other crowd of people who never attended the other sections. 

Considering doing the show one of these days? Here are my conclusions:

  • Summer Art Fair (Main, Liberty, State) - lots of lookers, good traffic and many people who won't/don't go to the more chi chi sections
  • State Street Area Art Fair - huge, sprawling over many blocks with spurs that probably do not get visited. I think this is the chanciest show for making sales. Some of the "art stars" here but uneven quality. It looks as though they have trouble filling up all the real estate this show takes up. The North U. section is excellent though. If you are ever accepted to this show find out where your booth will be before you send your money.
  • South University Art Fair - where the "original" show started geographically. Way s-p-r-e-a-d out for blocks, but pretty much in a row. Some of the artists who made that show so special are still exhibiting in it. I think an "also ran" for sales with spotty quality and an empty feeling. Needs to be consolidated. I like that in the last two years it has moved down S. University to meet up with State, giving good traffic to artists on both of those streets. 

Kristin Perkins on S. University

  • Ann Arbor Street Art Fair - very fine work in just about every booth. This is the area where out-of-towners who are in the know will shop and the most affluent buyers come to shop. It is the most pleasant setting (adding in the North U. section of the State St. show) and a place where you feel comfortable and like you are actually in a fine art event, more like the high quality events in Denver and Chicago.

If I was doing shows again it would be a toss up which I would choose as each one has its pros and cons.

Out hotel, the Campus Inn, was full of well-dressed people, shopping teams, getting up early to hit the streets and coming back in the evening to show one another their purchases, all very excited to be there and who have attending it on their annual summer schedule.

Shoppers love this show. Ann Arbor is a lovely town, the restaurants are delightful, easy parking and access to the shows, the art fair unlike any other in the country with treasures every ten feet.

I'll return!

3 Jewelry booths for those of you who are always trying to figure out how to show off your work:

How about this (on the left) for a minimalist booth? I've seen it before -- patrons love milling around it

And please note the wheels on the bottom of these jewelry cases. Pretty cool!

Winner of the most pristine:

Please read Nels' Johnson's review of the show here: Ann Arbor Art Fair, The Guild Shows, Slow and Low

John Leben's review: Ann Arbor (the Original), Good Weather, Good Sales

Scott Pakulski's adventures: New to Ann Arbor

While writing this I came on this post, worthwhile reading for artists:

Video to come!

Views: 1228

Comment by Lynnea Bennett on July 28, 2014 at 9:29am

when I lived in Toledo this was a must go to show.  I wasn't an artist then. I've often dreamed of being good enough to be there.  This not only gives me some insight but maybe the kick in the pants to at least apply.  The info about the various parts of the show is great as well since I would have no idea which area to apply to. 

Comment by Christina L. Towell on July 28, 2014 at 9:52am

Thanks, Connie...wonderful critique and good information for oldbies and newbies alike, love the pictures too!

Comment by Connie Mettler on July 28, 2014 at 2:24pm

One of the reasons I wrote this, Lynnea, was to show all the different options. You probably are "good enough" and I say that not because I know your work, but because the quality of the work at the show ranged from mundane, boring, repetitive to absolutely lovely gallery quality work. Bet you fit into that continuum somewhere.

Comment by Connie Mettler on July 31, 2014 at 4:21pm

I came across this blog today from someone who visited the AA fair and it has lots of photos, in case you aren't on AA overload already:

Comment by Connie Mettler on August 5, 2014 at 9:43am

and here is some more interesting news: Ann Arbor's average July temperature almost 4 degrees below normal. Here's the story and you'll love the comments below it:

Comment by Lynnea Bennett on August 5, 2014 at 2:48pm

Connie, thanks so much for this review.  I have hesitated to do Ann Arbor .... I do think my work is good enough... but I have to account for travel/food/hotel on top of the booth fees.  I am definitely changing the level of shows that I am applying for.  I am looking to break into ODC Winterfair this year (I was wait listed last year) and definitely moving up 


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