Kids and Townies

. July 18, 2016.

Picasso once said that it took him 4 years to paint like Raphael, and a lifetime to paint like a child. That every child is an artist, the problem is trying to remain one when we grow up.

This couldn't be more true.

Children are so free-spirited when it comes to expressing themselves.  Free from all of the angst and hang-ups that we adult artists have, they usually produce some of the most amazing work!

Thankfully Ann Arbor has an event each year that celebrates and encourages children and their creative endeavors.

The Townie Party came about 12 years ago as a way to enhance partnership between the locals and the Ann Arbor Art Fair. The Townie party kicks off on the Monday before the original fair begins.  In addition to having local musicians and bands play, the idea of having a children’s art fair at the townie party seemed like a great idea and venue for local kids to display and sell their work.

They were particularly interested in creating the kids art fair mostly because children that are involved in sports and other extra curricular activities have venues in which to express themselves. Creative and artistic kids generally don't have the same kinds of opportunity, so creating the kids art fair seemed like a great idea.

The children’s art fair encourages children to go through the same processes that the adults participating in the Art fair must go through. They have to pull together a portfolio and small sampling of their work,  apply to one of several jury sessions where they will show their prospective work and speak about their vision, process, and pieces to a team of jurors that are primarily made up of local Art educators, artists, and volunteers. The event is limited to third through eighth grade children that live in Washtenaw county.

On average about 100 kids will apply for approximately 70 tables.  Unfortunately not everyone gets in due to space constraints.

For the past couple of years the kids art fair has been relocated due to U of M construction, but this year will return to the Ingall’s mall on Monday, July 18 from 5-9:30pm. Approximately 80 children will be participating, including some siblings that will share tables, or artists that will collaborate.

Only original works of Art may be shown. They will allow some reproduction of prints because organizers know it’s unrealistic for kids to to able to individually draw out each piece,  however it is highly encouraged for them to produce as many original pieces as possible.  No kits or licensed trademarks are allowed. They want the kids to be as creative as possible and explore their Art and process.

The Art ranges from paintings, photography, jewelry, clay, fiber art, metal work, and so much more.

Each child has their own table and is encouraged to make a display that is appealing and will draw potential customers in. Even though they encourage the kids to merchandise well, and give suggestions on price points,  The emphasis is not just about selling, but the process of completing the program from start to finish.

Maureen (Mo) Riley, who is the Executive Director of the Ann Arbor Street Art fair said she loves the program for children and gets weepy every time seeing the process of kids coming in timid and shy, a lot of them not really having had the encouragement to pursue working creatively. The end result: Their hard work pays off, and the kids and parents are beaming when they walk out.

The Ann Arbor Art Fair begins Thursday July 21 and runs through Sunday, July 24.