Ann Arbor Art Fairs
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The Ann Arbor Art Fairs are a group of four award-winning, not-for-profit art fairs that take place annually in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Over 500,000 visitors attend the Fairs each year. The fair runs from Wednesday through Saturday, and the 2013 fairs are scheduled to be held July 17–20 (Wed–Fri: 10 am – 9 pm and Sat: 10 am – 6 pm).
The four official fairs are the Ann Arbor Street Art Fair, the Original (52yrs); the State Street Art Fair (44yrs); the Ann Arbor Summer Art Fair (42yrs); and Ann Arbor's South University Art Fair (12yrs). Taken collectively, the Ann Arbor Art Fair is one of the largest art fairs in North America.
In addition to art exhibits, the fairs also feature music performances and children's activities.
Ann Arbor Street Art Fair, The Original
The oldest of the four, the Ann Arbor Street Art Fair, The Original, was established in 1960 by a collaboration between the Ann Arbor Art Association, the University of Michigan, and two business groups. For 50 years, The Ann Arbor Street Art Fair has been connecting a carefully selected group of artists with an appreciative audience from Ann Arbor and across the country.
The “Original” moniker in the Fair’s title comes not only from the event’s history, but from its unique role as a leader in the art fair community. It was the first Fair to jury an outdoor show in 1965 and was integral in the creation of the online jurying system Zapplication, now in use by hundreds of fairs across the country.
The Fair has also been a leader in programming throughout the years, initiating events like the Townie Street Party. This special free kick off event takes place the Monday before the start of the Fairs (July 18, 2011) and gives the community a chance to celebrate the Art Fairs before the crowds come to town. Other programs like the Kid’s Art Fair give young artists the opportunity to exhibit and sell their work. The New Artist Program allows University level artists to experience what it’s like to fully participate in the Street Art Fair.
The Performances on the Lawn program is mix of music, dance and magic by local community groups and professionals.
The Original Fair has recently made a huge commitment to sustainability as well, introducing the Zero Waste Program in 2008 with a goal of minimal environmental impact. This program was one of three invited to present at the 2009 annual MFEA Conference.
As a result of its leadership, The Original Fair has won numerous awards, including the Governors Award (State of Michigan), several Reader’s Choice Awards (Ann Arbor News, Ann Arbor Current), a Gold Pinnacle Award (International Festivals and Events Association), and the title of the Number One Art Fair in the country (according to the AmericanStyle magazine readers survey, October 2004). It has made the list of Top Ten Fairs and Festivals every year since.
In 2003, the Ann Arbor Street Art Fair, the Original relocated to North University Avenue and the streets surrounding the landmark Burton Memorial Tower. This gorgeous new location on the University of Michigan’s Central Campus is set amidst elegant architecture and beautifully landscaped pedestrian walkways.
Ann Arbor State Street Art Fair
The State Street Area Art Fair is an art fair that combines 325 artists with merchant displays along the streets of Ann Arbor's campus area. It is one of four Ann Arbor fairs held concurrently each July.
Ann Arbor Summer Art Fair
The Ann Arbor Summer Art Fair was established in 1960 and is run by The Guild of Artists & Artisans. Originally called the Free Arts Festival and held on the Diag, in the University of Michigan's Central Campus, in the mid-70s it was renamed to become the Ann Arbor Summer Art Fair. Currently, it is held in two locations, one on State Street, and the other on Main Street and Liberty Street between Main and 4th Avenue. In addition to 375 professional artists, the fair also features performances and children's activities.
Ann Arbor South University Art Fair
Over the years, several unofficial, for-profit art fairs have piggybacked onto the Ann Arbor Art Fairs in an attempt to capitalize on its large attendance. One such fair is operated downtown in a privately owned parking lot off Liberty Street, directly adjacent to the State Street Area Art Fair. In 2009, another for-profit art fair, Ann Arbor Art Fair at Briarwood, began in the parking lot of Briarwood Mall, a staging area for shuttle busses that travel to and from downtown Ann Arbor during the Ann Arbor Art Fairs.
The art found at these fairs is generally priced lower than that found at the official Ann Arbor Art Fairs. This may be attributed to the lower booth fees charged by the shows' directors and the relatively lower experience level of the artists who exhibit here. Artists generally find that they are much more likely to be accepted as exhibitors in these shows when compared to the official Ann Arbor Art Fairs.
Ann Arbor Art Fair at Briarwood
The Ann Arbor Art Fair at Briarwood was established in 2009 and is run by Kathy Jacobi, of Buzzy Bee Productions. It is held in the parking lot near Sears at Briarwood Mall, located near the intersection of State Street and I-94.
Briarwood is one of the two locations (the other is Pioneer High School) the Ann Arbor Transportation Authority operates shuttle bus service from a large parking lot to the other downtown Ann Arbor Art Fairs.
The shuttle bus service from Briarwood mall routinely transports over 30,000 visitors. The Ann Arbor Art Fair at Briarwood uniquely allows visitors to visit part of the Ann Arbor Art Fairs conveniently located near both their vehicle and the shuttle bus service, ensuring that visitors do not need to carry their purchases around with them all day.
Art Fair Food
The usual fair food is offered such as French fries, cotton candy, funnel fries, caramel apples and fried Twinkies. However certain vendors also offer a variety of specialized cuisine from restaurants across the city. Greek, Asian, Creole and Indian food are some of the variety that can show up at the Ann Arbor Art Fair. 
Protest from Residents
Given the traffic and inconvenience of having a large number of visitors come in for the week, some Ann Arbor residents dislike the fairs and have protested against them, rallying under the slogan of "It's not art, and it's not fair." In 2005, in an effort to cultivate a better relationship with locals, the Ann Arbor Street Art Fair, the Original started a tradition of holding a "Townie Street Party" on the Monday before the fairs begin.
- "Official Event Guide" 2011 Ann Arbor Art Fair Guide
- Ann Arbor Street Art Fair, the Original. 27 June 2006 http://www.artfair.org/
- AmericanStyle. October 2004. http://www.americanstyle.com/Travel/Top_25_Fairs_Festivals/1AnnArbor.cfm
- State Street Area Art Fair. http://a2statestreetartfair.com
- "The 42nd Annual Ann Arbor Summer Art Fair." The Guild of Artists & Artisans. 8 August 2011. http://theguild.org/art-fairs/ann-arbor-art-fair/
- "AATA Announces New Fares for Art Fair Shuttle" Ann Arbor Biz News 4 July 2009 http://www.annarborbiznews.com/2009/07/04/aata-announces-new-fares-for-art-fair-shuttle/.
- "Art Fair at Briarwood" 27 Mar 2009 http://socialmediaart.ning.com/events/art-fair-at-briarwood.
- "Art Fair at Briarwood" 1 June 2009 http://artfairatbriarwood.blogspot.com.
- "Food Floozie" 28 July 2010 http://foodfloozie.blogspot.com/2010/07/wordless-wednesday-ann-arbor-art-fair.html
- Richard Wiggins. "Please Swipe my Credit Card." Internet Outlook 20 July 1997. Accessed 27 June 2006. http://www.webreference.com/outlook/column3/
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