Everything for Kids at this Year’s Ann Arbor Art Fair

. June 30, 2016.

The Ann Arbor Art Fair runs this year from July 21 to 24. I remember the first Art Fair that I witnessed.  I was taking a summer school class at the University of Michigan. I went to class at 9am and when I walked out at 11, there was out of nowhere a happy ebb and flow of humanity, commerce and the American way.

The Fair has evolved over the years. This is the 57th season and the fair now extends to Sunday at 6pm. More time, less hurry and worry. The art itself gets better every year and there are no more cutesy, kitschy, nick-nacky offerings. This is real art by real artists, collectible and enjoyable to stroll by and look at. 

Townie Party

Three days before the actual Fair, on Monday, July 18, from 5 to 9:30pm, is the Townie Street Party. Now in its 11th year, the Townie Party is a celebration of all things Ann Arbor, a token of appreciation to resident families for hosting the Fair each year. It takes place on North University between Thayer and Fletcher and on The South Ingalls Mall. One of the main events is the Art Activity Zone where kids of all ages can make hats, glow-in-the-dark jellyfish, a book, clay-based pieces and tie-dyed bandanas.  There is also the juried Kids Art Fair where 3rd to 8th grade artists from across Washtenaw County can display and sell their winning works. There is local food and, for parents, the Townie Pub.

Library Presence 

The Downtown Ann Arbor Public Library has always been a major presence at the Art Fair.  The safe-for-all-ages Library show, Mystery Hole: Art Installation by Jason Shiga,  is on now and runs through August 31, a “conductive comic,” 24 feet by 8 feet, 154 panels, in which the viewer chooses his own story line and goes off in non-linear plots by pushing buttons on the panels and seeing where the next panel lights up.  Shiga’s character drawings are simple, like Charlie Brown or The Simpsons, but the way the panels are connected is more like multiple universe theory.

Stamps Alumni Exhibit

The University of Michigan Penny Stamps School of Art & Design is staging its 2016 Juried Alumni Exhibition: “Horror Vacui” (“Fear of Empty Space”) to coincide with the Art Fair.  It runs from June 19 to August 6 at the Argus II Building at 400 4th Street.  Alum are coming from across America and around the world to share their current creative endeavors.  The show’s juror is Elysia Borowy-Reeder, the estimable Executive Director of MOCAD, the Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit.  The free Opening Reception & Award Ceremony is on Friday, July 22, from 6-8pm. Talk about multiple universes!