Arbor Update

Ann Arbor Area Community News

Art Fair 2006

19. July 2006 • Juliew
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Ann Arbor Art Fair

Love it, hate it, tolerate it: whatever your feelings, if you are still in town, go out and support your local artists and Ann Arbor retailers during the Art Fair. Don’t assume that every business will be crowded downtown. This is often the slowest week of the year for many downtown businesses. Everyone talks about supporting the local arts community by creating artist space, but buying their art is still the most direct and efficient way to support an artist.

Technically there are four official Art Fairs (and a few non-official ones):
Ann Arbor Street Art Fair
The State Street Area Art Fair
The Ann Arbor Summer Art Fair
Ann Arbor’s South University Art Fair

AATA and the City will both run shuttle buses from outlying parking lots. The prices are extremely reasonable: $3 roundtrip for the AATA shuttle (free parking) at Pioneer or Briarwood and $5 for a day of parking at the UM’s Glazier Lot (free if you already have a parking pass). Shuttles will run every 15 minutes.
UM parking, shuttle and detour information
AATA shuttle and detour information

  1. This is my first year working out of an office right off of Main St, I am sure parking will be a little more interesting. I am looking forward to seeing the turn-out though, and browsing the art during lunch.

       —Ross J    Jul. 19 '06 - 01:22AM    #
  2. Eh, not to be a Negative Nelly, but it seems like the vast bulk of “artists” (some more deserving of said term than others, perhaps) are actually not local.

    Local businesses are certainly often pretty empty, though, so hit those up. I don’t think Encore and the Art Fairs really attract a lot of the same crowd, for instance.

    On a related note, dig Mark Maynard’s great recap of Saturday’s Shadow Art Fair in Ypsi. It was an amazing event.

       —Brandon    Jul. 19 '06 - 02:52AM    #
  3. Ok, but wheres my Art Fair Bingo?

       —Mike    Jul. 19 '06 - 07:25AM    #
  4. I did say “support your local artists.” I certainly didn’t mean that all of them were local. There actually are many, many local artists in the Art Fairs. On my two-block street alone, there are three full-time artists who support themselves through art fairs. To widen out the loop though, there are also two frame shops in my neighborhood that do a lot of work with local artists and framing of Art Fair purchases. Most of the artists in my neighborhood are members of the Michigan Guild, which gives money to the Main Street Area Association. The Main Street Area Association supports the merchants in the Main Street area and supplies money for the street performers at First Fridays and other events downtown. So the money from local and out-of-town artists actually pays back to the City in some unexpected ways.

    As for the definition of art, everyone has their own. I’m not sure that the wooden spoons in my kitchen are “art,” but they are made by a person that I have met and talked to, who is making his own way in life, and who takes pride in his work. They are beautiful and functional. The same goes for the dishes in my cupboard, which my neighbor made. The art on my walls all has a story that I know. There are many people who sneer that something functional isn’t “art,” or that art has to follow some esoteric rules, but I feel lucky to have the opportunity to own handmade things and my house doesn’t look like a Pottery Barn catalogue, which makes me happy.

       —Juliew    Jul. 19 '06 - 07:35AM    #
  5. Julie,
    to help ya’ll out here—the better term for those you describe would be “artisan” or “craftsperson” and neither should be taken as a diminishment. Craftsmen are folks who take pride in the things they make by hand one object at a time and have well developed skills at working with a particular material or technique. So all those pot makers out there? are rightly described as craftspersons, but they sure as hell ain’t “artists.” And sincerely, that’s not a slam, it’s a clarification of terms.

    Those rules you mention, the ones that delineate art from everything else, really aren’t all that esoteric if one takes an interest in understanding what “art” really is. We just happen to live in a culture that doesn’t value art—it values home decor. Not that home decor is a bad thing either. But “art” really does, or really should, have a specific meaning.

    Or how else as a culture do we differentiate between a Romane Bearden painting and a bumblebee on on a stick? What’s the difference between a Salgado photograph and the daisies in a straw something we’ll all be subjected to this week?

    Art really is a profession and a field of study. That’s why there aren’t slides of bumblebees on a stick in Art History class. In my brief painful encounters with the “art” fair, I’ve noticed about 15% of what’s out there could be arguably considered “art”. About 40% is craft. The rest is s*** on a stick no more culturally valuable than the elephant ears in the next booth.

       —Nancy Jowske    Jul. 19 '06 - 11:15AM    #
  6. Juliew –
    Personally, I have more trouble considering things art when they’re not functional – the best art is something perfectly suited to its function. (You can probably explain this attitude by my background as an engineer/computer programmer. Mmmm, tools.)

       —Murph    Jul. 19 '06 - 04:52PM    #
  7. Today is Sabra’s and my 20th anniversary. We’re going to the Art Fair tonight to buy our anniversary present, as we have traditionally done.

    Sabra said we should try to go to a regular downtown restaurant for dinner, on the theory that the Art Fair crowd doesn’t pack them. So we’re trying for Zanzibar.

       —David Cahill    Jul. 19 '06 - 05:10PM    #
  8. Ha, I figured there would be a priggish reply about the sanctity of art and Nancy, you didn’t let me down. My point is that “art” and the meaning of it is a very personal thing. I enjoy the art fair because it gives me a chance to see many different things, which mean something different to everyone. Oh, and it is Romare Bearden, not Romane. And yeah, I’d have to say his so-called art is not really my thing..

       —Juliew    Jul. 19 '06 - 05:13PM    #
  9. I agree with Juliew.

    Art is an intensely personal experience (just like music or food), and that experience differs from person to person.

    I personally love jazz because of its complexities and intricacies, but i would certainly never tell people who pick up a guitar and create little diddies in their living room that their creations aren’t music.

    Things like pop music and rap aren’t my thing, but there certainly is room for them in the cultural phenomenon that is “music”...the same holds true for non-”professional” art. Culture isn’t created because a jury convenes and sanctions it.

       —kena    Jul. 19 '06 - 05:43PM    #
  10. This is hilarious.

    Nobody would come if it were called the Ann Arbor Craft Fair. This pretension to greater cultural meaning is what draws people here.

    The precision in terminology Nancy lays out is useful in some fashion (an etic ethnographic analysis, for example), but probably not by the consumers themselves.

       —Dale    Jul. 19 '06 - 06:25PM    #
  11. Thanks for the supportive item, Julie. The fairs are an integral part of the local economy, the artist/craftsperson/artisan sector especially. I know that certain local businesses wouldn’t exist without them. Many people work long and hard to make them as successful as possible for a very broad audience.

    Rather than debate terms and personal tastes, how about we enjoy the nice weather and find the activity that we each feel better about, that doesn’t make us feel in conflict with other people? There’s enough conflict going on right now.

    Happy anniversary, David. That’s quite a milestone these days.

       —Steve Bean    Jul. 19 '06 - 06:29PM    #
  12. Dale I disagree. Nancy’s terminology is wrong; art has no ‘rules’. Every time someone tried to make them they were shattered by revolutions and movements that rocked the art world (industrial, computer, dada, performance art, environmental art, happenings etc.).

    “Art really is a profession and a field of study.” That’s not true! The word art comes from the word artifact. In its most basic form art is the product of your labor; your artifact. Writing can simply be communication but can become art possibly with calligraphy or as poetry. Drawings and paintings were tools of documentation and communication long before museums existed and many things displayed as ‘art’ were produced for utilitarian reasons (portraits for example). Pottery has been used pragmatically and decoratively for centuries. There is no hard and fast line between art and craft. ‘Art’ is the thought and ‘craft’ is the action; whether the medium is paint, pottery, cloth, paper, earth, wood, stone, tile or anything else.

    “We just happen to live in a culture that doesn’t value art”. In a way I agree but would make the distinction that we live in a culture that doesn’t know art. As a culture we do not read about it, practice it, see it, study it, or teach it too our children; we just want to buy it. And I am afraid to say your post doesn’t help at all.

    We should all strive to make wonderful and thoughtful things and encourage others to do so also. We should encourage the potter to push limits to transform the utilitarian bowl to be more than simply a vessel. We should applaud the furniture maker when the chair becomes as much a thing to look at as it is a chair. And we should chastise a writer who attempts to draw exclusionary lines around our products in a misguided attempt to clarify things that need no clarification.

       —abc    Jul. 19 '06 - 06:33PM    #
  13. Julie,
    This is my private little crusade ( not quite as determined as Blaine’s) to assert the difference between persons who study art and devote great thought to producing art, and this concept that anything someone likes looking at is “art”.

    “Art is in the eye of the beholder” leaves no room for the work of people who take it to the highest level of long term significance. Midwives, orderlies and physicians are all “healthcare professionals” but we still leave the designation “doctor” to those who have earned that level of understanding and respect. That does not disrespect nurses or, for that matter, your mom and her home remedies. The designation only sets apart a certain level of acheivement.

    And, we allow healthcare professionals to make that distinction for themselves. Any well read and educated art professional will tell you almost all pots are craft. And craft is a beautiful and meaningful thing. It’s just not art.

    I don’t consider myself holier than thou, narrow minded or stuffy (see priggish) for starting this discussion. What is art is a legitimate debate, don’t you think?

       —Nancy Jowske    Jul. 19 '06 - 06:41PM    #
  14. ABC,
    I agree 100% with everything you write. every word.

    I’m not suggesting boundaries around a particular genre or “rules” for determining art from craft. I’m suggesting the word “art” has been bastardized to the point of losing all meaning. I wish that were not true.

    When I try to define “Art” it is not by any rules of who made it or how it was made—it’s a mix of intent, degree of vision and Pirsig’s nature of Quality.

    And it’s too bad folks wouldn’t flock to the Ann Arbor Craft Fair. Craft is a beautiful thing.

       —Nancy Jowske    Jul. 19 '06 - 06:52PM    #
  15. Just to add my comments to an already tricky discussion: one way to think about it is to realize that “art” must mean something. Otherwise, no one would know what you were talking about when you used the term. Just because something is defined inadequately doesn’t mean it doesn’t have a definition.

    Sure, defining art is personal. That doesn’t mean we can’t have meaningful discussions about what definitions are better than others. Nancy’s distinction between art and craft is useful—but of course there is no solid boundary between the two, which is where personal distinctions come in. There’s no contradiction between the two different attitudes—Nancy’s distinction is a kind of framework, and Julie’s personal approach lets each individual fill in the details. Artists can (and often do, especially if they are interested in supporting themselves) become artisans, and vice-versa. Calling it the Arts & Crafts Fair might be somewhat more accurate, but being generous you could just view all the art and all the craft together, and see the art that inspired the craft, and so maybe it would be most accurate to call it the “Art-ness Fair”, to recognize the quality of art that is inherent in each object. But then, no one would know what the fair was about :)

       —Young Urban Amateur    Jul. 19 '06 - 06:55PM    #
  16. Okay, Julie, I think I just recognized why I’m being such a prig about this.
    “Love it, hate it, tolerate it: whatever your feelings, if you are still in town, go out and support your local artists and Ann Arbor retailers during the Art Fair. .... Everyone talks about supporting the local arts community by creating artist space, but buying their art is still the most direct and efficient way to support an artist.”

    one—these for the most part are not local artists. Many of those booth holders are art making machines riding the art fair circuit. I know plenty of local artists, good ones, who either can’t do enough production-line art to afford the booth or can’t even get a booth.

    two—supporting affordable work spaces for local artists directly benefits the most experimental and “edgy” artists who push the boundaries the production artisans eventually follow.
    If it weren’t for boundary busting creatives there would be no assemblage, no collage, no text or digital art. The art fair isn’t going to benefit them because they don’t produce “pretty” stuff.

    three—buying their art is, yes, the most direct way to support local artists. But when artists are focused only on being marketable they tend to lose their innovative edge. the most innovative and then influencial artists tend to appeal only to collectors and prigs like myself.

    You don’t get the part where everything designed around you, all the stuff at the art fair and elsewhere that you visually appreciate was once “cutting edge” and repellant to the common tastes of their day. without innovation art stagnates. art that you find unattractive is often the very art that fuels the future of it.

    This is no different than recognizing the importance of “useless” science and supporting it accordingly. It may seem pointless to you, but to other scientists and the engineers to follow, the useless science is bedrock.

    The art fair is the back end of the art world—where trends and styles land right before they hit BB&B. go ahead and promote the art fair, but please not at the expense of supporting artists who understand art as their profession.

       —Nancy Jowske    Jul. 19 '06 - 09:14PM    #
  17. Yeah, Julie – none of your friends and neighbors are real artists. Get a clue. (...sarcasm…)

    Nancy, I think you’re lashing out at a strawman here.

       —Murph    Jul. 19 '06 - 10:14PM    #
  18. Hmm, my mom was in town and insisted on meeting at Cottage Inn for lunch (she’s calls “ethnic” food beyond “Italian” “weird”... she’s from Holland, give her a break). The place was extremely packed… a friend who works there told me they had basically 5 times as many servers working than on a normal Wednesday… so maybe Zanzibar won’t be empty, David.

       —Brandon    Jul. 19 '06 - 10:40PM    #
  19. I know plenty of local artists, good ones, who either can’t do enough production-line art to afford the booth or can’t even get a booth.
    Yeah, I know a lot of these people too. Many of them complain loud and long about the demise of the arts, the sellouts, the commercial failures, the boundary pushers, how horrible the Art Fairs are, how they are ruining everything, until, of course, they are offered a booth at the Art Fair. Funny how that changes things.

    You don’t get the part where everything designed around you, all the stuff at the art fair and elsewhere that you visually appreciate was once “cutting edge” and repellant to the common tastes of their day.
    Let’s get this straight Nancy: you know nothing about me, you don’t know who I am, you don’t know my history, my artistic preferences, what or how I do or do not support, or my tastes, so don’t make assumptions.

    So Nancy, you can go sulk in the corner of your studio about the demise of all that is ART and write checks to your real, true cutting-edge artists, I’m off to do as Steve Bean suggests and enjoy the lovely day and the art and the people. I’m assuming you will not be exhibiting your work here this year or I would stop by. Some of it looks quite lovely. Guess mebbee I’ll get me a bumblebee on a stick instead.

       —Juliew    Jul. 19 '06 - 10:41PM    #
  20. One thing we can always count on at Arbor Update—when people disagree it just has to get snarky, sarcastic and personal.

    The entire notion that there might be “real” artists who will still need sponsorship because they aren’t into making popular art is certainly worthy of sarcasm.

    How many fricking times did I have to put it out there that being a craftsperson or artisan or production artist or folk artist is fine, beautiful, wonderful, you go craftperson—but that’s not enough—
    There wil be no priggish defense of the word “art” even by folks who devote years of study to it. He who wields the most clever snarky comeback wins. Gotta love AA.

    Screw this place.

       —Nancy Jowske    Jul. 19 '06 - 10:48PM    #
  21. Uh, I think both of you missed Steve’s point. BTW, regardless of anyone’s definition of ‘art’ or ‘craft’ or ‘whatever’, I consider the AA Art Fairs to be a colossal pain in my ass, but I’m willing to tolerate them (as I have for 20+ years now) because other people seem to love them. It’s certainly not something to get this worked up about (until at least Friday when people have firmly decided that, despite oncoming traffic, the Don’t Walk symbol at Liberty and Division simply doesn’t apply to THEM…)

       —Marc R.    Jul. 19 '06 - 11:40PM    #
  22. Nancy, may I gently suggest that you may have lost some ground in the civility of this discussion when you told Juliew that everything she likes is crap. To wit,

    You don’t get the part where everything designed around you, all the stuff at the art fair and elsewhere that you visually appreciate was once “cutting edge” and repellant to the common tastes of their day.

    And then went on, just to make sure she understood that you were calling her tastes base, common, and uneducated, by drawing a parallel between her support of some Art Fair vendors as artists with being uneducated in science.

    At least, that’s the way I read it, and that’s what I was tweaking in my comment. I read Julie’s response as being par for the course when you’ve just told someone she just doesn’t understand art.

    I appreciate your part of this thread so far – I just think your brush has been broad, occasionally to the point of insulting.

       —Murph    Jul. 20 '06 - 01:16AM    #
  23. You don’t get the part where everything designed around you, all the stuff at the art fair and elsewhere that you visually appreciate was once “cutting edge” and repellant to the common tastes of their day.

    That’s not how I read that, Murph. Nancy’s saying that there’s a sliding scale, one end having commercial viability being high, but cutting-edgeness (or explicitly edgy intention) being low, and the other with commercial viability being low, but innovative intention being high. In this quote she’s saying Julie doesn’t recognize where art fair (or most of her stuff around her house) resides on the scale.

    I’d like to hear how Nancy would characterize folk art, though.

       —Dale    Jul. 20 '06 - 01:38AM    #
  24. Nancy Jowske wrote “The rest is s*** on a stick no more culturally valuable than the elephant ears in the next booth.”

    Why has no one risen to the defense of this and other deep-fried-dough treats? They’re simply delicious. Just don’t eat more than three or four at a time. Save room for a corn dog. Something to ponder: if I can render a funnel cake in the shape of the state of Michigan, including the UP (I’m talking free-hand, not with some metal outline), does that make me a fried-dough artist? Or rather a fried-dough craftsman?

    So here’s my support of the exhortation “to do as Steve Bean suggests and enjoy the lovely day and the art and the people” and, I would add, “the snack of your choice, including elephant ears, if that’s what you find delicious.”

       —HD    Jul. 20 '06 - 02:06AM    #
  25. To rephrase—everything surrounding US—every design of or on anything was once “cutting edge” and repellent to the majority of people at the time. Artists take risks that push the envelope of what the majority of viewers find acceptable or beautiful. That new space in the envelope allow followers more room to explore and slowly a new visual vocabulary becomes known to all of us.

    Production artisans pick up the ball and make these innovations more marketable and easy to produce. And yes, occasionally they do break new technical ground. But rarely do they truly experiment with content, context or formal and theoretical concerns in a significant way. It’s pretty simple—if they did thier stuff wouldn’t sell.

    The cutting edge stuff tends to be disturbing only because it presents something we’ve truly never seen before. And it’s often confrontational in ways that make us all uncomfortable. My “proof” on this score is in five trips through every square inch of the Art Fairs I’ve yet to see something that was not a variation on something I’ve seen before. Nor have I seen anything taken to the level of resolve and attention to detail I expect to see in “fine art.”

    I know there are production artisans who also make art and use their production work to support their genuine explorations. but just as it takes a particular type of vision to truly push the envelope, it takes a particular type of temperment to reproduce variations on a theme over and over again as inexpensively as possible.

    My whole objection was to the idea of putting your cash into production art in lieu of support for developing fine artists. I’ve seen amazing artists who simply could not sustain the production levels one needs to justify a tent at the art fair, struggling to do potentially quite significant work.

    I consider much folk art and “primitive” art “Art” when it was obviously done as a means of genuine self expression and not confined by the tastes of the moment or to appeal to the buying public and it achieves a level of authenticity and resonance that sets it apart.

    To me that defines “Art” right there—it sets itself apart. Nothing in the Art Fair that I’ve ever seen set itself apart.

    Some of the best art out there right now is spray painted on abandoned garages in Detroit and generated by some little old lady in Hillsdale county for her own spiritual self expression.

       —Nancy Jowske    Jul. 20 '06 - 03:21AM    #
  26. Best sign so far, on a front lawn on W. Huron River Drive, way out past Bird Road: “Art Fair Parking—$3”. Gotta love the optimism.

       —Steve Bean    Jul. 20 '06 - 05:59AM    #
  27. We bought our perfect anniversary gift at the Art Fair, and then we went to Zanzibar around 7:00 – where there was no waiting! Our server said they expected business to pick up later in the evening.

    While the weather was perfect yesterday, the weather radar right now shows a huge mass of really ugly rain headed our way. The forecast says it will arrive this afternoon, but it looks like the heavens will open in just a couple of hours.

    Try the Art Fair, and support our local businesses, later today.

       —David Cahill    Jul. 20 '06 - 04:41PM    #
  28. Sitting at the beer corral in front of the Michigan Theater with friends while playing a newly-coined game (thanks, Chris ) that involved guessing the number of fanny-packs that would pass within a 5-minute window was indeed pleasant. Surprisingly it was only 3, but this was later in the evening.

       —Brandon    Jul. 20 '06 - 06:23PM    #
  29. Nancy

    I have just painted a mustache on a likeness of you. But I am unsure if L.H.O.O.Q. applies.

    Your reductionary and exclusionary comments are disturbing. I don’t know people who are as simple as you portray; artists or craftsmen (or car mechanics for that matter). I actually think my dog is more complex. Keep this up and I will overnight the urinal.

       —abc    Jul. 20 '06 - 06:58PM    #
  30. Great sign sighting Steve. Would people really park way out there and somehow get to the Art Fair? Perhaps this is an example of scamming the non-locals?

    I wish I lived in Dexter so I could post something ironic like “Art Fair Parking – 50 cents”. Someone who doesn’t know the area would stop and park, assuming it had to be close to the Art Fair, not realizing …

       —AK    Jul. 21 '06 - 01:12AM    #
  31. no need to paint the moustache…it’s already there.

    And thank you. I live to disturb.

       —Nancy Jowske    Jul. 21 '06 - 02:19AM    #
  32. Duchamp disturbed, as do mosquitoes. So far, you are the latter.

       —abc    Jul. 21 '06 - 07:59AM    #
  33. abc,
    please forgive my ignorance of art. I defer to your expertise and Julie’s. I am deservedly humbled. Touche’.
    Thank you for the wake-up call. I went out to the Art Fair yesterday afternoon and realized just how wrong I was. The experience was so profound I have decided to change my life—to dedicate it to the pursuit of social justice working for the poor and most vulnerable. Finally, my life will have meaning!
    Had I only known the answers were all at the Art Fair, I would have gone last year!
    But the parking was a bitch!

       —Nancy Jowske    Jul. 21 '06 - 10:49AM    #
  34. Of those who have been to the art fair, could you direct me to the booths of artist’s whose work includes smeared elephant dung on religious icons? I am especially interested in works that also include cutouts from porn magazines. It is sooooo cutting edge and disturbing that I’m convinced my guest room wouldn’t be complete without such a profound and meaningful statement. With the help of Nancy’s profound knowledge and insight, I now prefer “real art” in my home decor.

    Seriously though, what I really enjoy about the art fair are the merchants who empty their storerooms by having “art fair sales” where merchandise is sold for twice the former price. I think it’s great that the University locks down public buildings so that the public can’t use public restrooms that were paid for with public tax dollars. It thrills me to use the porta-potties on street corners surrounded by the noise of the crowds hoping that the latch really holds when someone else attempts to open the door. There’s nothing like the odor of these portables to remind us all that it’s July in Ann Arbor. Oh, and I almost forgot, I love those restaurants that print new menus on loose paper with inflated prices, especially for those who visit during the fairs. Gotta love AA!

       —Karen Luck    Jul. 21 '06 - 04:41PM    #
  35. Your bitterness has no redeeming qualities, Karen.

    I suggest that you write a letter to your state rep or the UM regents if you really object and want something changed. Otherwise, the old adage may apply in your case: if you don’t love it…

    But really, I think it would be great if you decided to enjoy some aspect of it. Maybe the free music or people watching. Or just talk to an artist from another part of the country to see what their life is like, what process they use to create their work, etc. There are plenty of opportunities.

    Ann Arbor isn’t responsible for your enjoyment of life, you are.

       —Steve Bean    Jul. 21 '06 - 05:25PM    #
  36. I did have a funnel cake last night, which was good.

    But I miss the Shadow Art Fair already. No bitterness about port-a-johns (oh, the horror), tourists, bumblebees-on-a-stick, price-gouging, lighthouse portraits… just good community, endless friends and acquaintances, good beer, and interesting handmade work (both arts and crafts).

    No elephant feces, but Ypsi definitely comes out the winner this year.

       —Brandon    Jul. 21 '06 - 06:06PM    #
  37. Brandon, could you be more specific about the real factors that made the Shadow fair more appealing to you? The things you list would be available to you at the AA fairs as well, I would think. Was it the smaller venue/overall size? If you wanted them both to be “winner”s, what would be the key to each one’s success?

    What I really want to hear is your definition of “good community”, but please respond to the above, first, if you would.

       —Steve Bean    Jul. 21 '06 - 06:31PM    #
  38. I worked the art fair last night at one of the advocacy booths and had a great time. And we walked around on Wednesday evening and saw lots of friends, listened to some music, ate a too-expensive-but-still-yummy gyro, and saw some interesting stuff for sale. My only complaint about the Art Fair that’s on Ingalls Mall this year is that I find there’s too much jewelry and women’s clothing. I know there’s a market for that, and that’s fine. But that’s my only beef.

    Overall, though, we had a really swell time.

       —Young OWSider    Jul. 21 '06 - 06:48PM    #
  39. The Governor’s office was paid for by the taxpayers, too. Doesn’t mean I can walk in and start using his pens.

    Or, think about it this way: opening the U.’s buildings and restrooms to the Art Fair public could mean more taxpayer dollars spent on cleaning up after them. The University receives some (but not even most) of its funding from the taxpayers, sure. But it’s called a university for a reason: it’s built for teaching, not tourism. Just my thoughts.

       —Young Urban Amateur    Jul. 21 '06 - 07:04PM    #
  40. Yes, I know it should be “her pens”—I was just speaking in general terms.

       —Young Urban Amateur    Jul. 21 '06 - 07:05PM    #
  41. Thanks for tha affirmation Karen! Now I feel confident laying down the rules for art –
    1. must contain feces, preferably elephant
    2. must contain porn (in order to be cutting edge)
    3. must be ugly, unappealing and otherwise devoid of merit
    4. must be liked by me, ten other prigs, and no other sane human being
    5. can’t be made by anyone but MFAs and/or inmates
    6. cannot be on stick
    7. cannot be sold in booth or tent
    8. cannot be made by anyone with “real” talent—will not be appreciated by any free thinker
    9. cannot contain lighthouses, baby animals or spoons—must clash with any decor
    10. must adhere to esoteric rules only known to Secret Society of Real Art Enthusiasts (can’t share—I took an oath)

       —Nancy Jowske    Jul. 21 '06 - 07:27PM    #
  42. Steve, I think the intimacy of the Shadow Art Fair was definitely part of it, though I expect it shall get slightly bigger in future years (although even the Detroit Urban Craft Fair at the Majestic Theater will be “intimate” compared to the A2 juggernaut). This relates to the “community” feel of the event as well, perhaps… there’s something to be said for seeing someone you know every two feet, or recognizing local elected officials and candidates, or the owner of venue. It seemed like I ran into many dozens of folks I knew in the time I was there working booths, browsing goods, having beers, or sitting on the lawn at the after party… it was locals and the creative community and young people en masse. I don’t think many of the vendors themselves, moreover, really expect to make a full-time living off their work, as much as that’d be the dream—they were doing it because they love it, not mass-producing it and traveling a circuit of commercial art fairs every summer. Moreover, instead of tacky lawn ornaments and paintings of lighthouses, the work itself was actually interesting and, at least to me, seemed more meaningful, personal, and, frankly, hipper and less cheesy than much of the stuff found in Ann Arbor. From small local record labels to clothesmakers to quirky magazines, there was a great range of (mostly very affordable!) DIY goods for sale. And, maybe its a generational/cultural thing… the entire scene might have be less-appealing to, say, a middle-aged couple from Bloomfield Hills looking for something to adorn their manicured lawn or Great Room. The organization of the event, too, was carried out by hard-working, dedicated volunteers. Maybe this is at the heart of contrast to the Ann Arbor Fairs, which seems mainly to exist for the benefit of local tourism and mass-production commercial artists. While valid for what it is, I personally find it a snooze, a hassle, and, really, not a real community-builder. It’s a tourist trap. I don’t know if people feel a “part of” anything at the Ann Arbor Fairs… it’s like going to Disneyworld. Even most of the music they book is a snooze, in my opinion. Do they still have Mr. B out there?

    So, to me, the nature of the beasts are rather different, and I, and most everyone I talked to, anyway, seem to have highly preferred the intimate grassroots event that was in Ypsi last week. To each his own, of course, but my soul just doesn’t fill with warm fuzzy feelings when I’m downtown this week among the waves of fanny packs.

       —Brandon    Jul. 21 '06 - 07:31PM    #
  43. “the nature of the beasts are rather different”

    I think you’ve hit on it. The Shadow fair was clearly a community event (and a great idea.) The AA fairs are an extra-, or beyond-, community event. I think the Townie Party has been an effort to remedy the sorts of feelings you have about that aspect of it.

    The various web sites for the fairs have info on how to contact their committee members and volunteer opportunities, so suggestions and constructive criticism are probably welcome.

    I agree that a big part of the feeling of community is recognizing faces—knowing and feeling known. Not everything we do, either individually or collectively, in town has to be building community, but understanding what does/doesn’t and what is/isn’t would definitely help. Not many “community leaders” grok this.

    (This gets into the separate subject of NIMBY attitudes, of which I think “it’s not art and it’s not fair” is just another example.)

       —Steve Bean    Jul. 21 '06 - 08:12PM    #
  44. I had the pleasure of working at Borders during Art Fair a couple years ago. Anyone with a heart will find a poor Ann Arbor hourly joe today and buy them a beer or something. Maybe the people who get tips and the people who own some business appreciate the spectacle, but from my limited perspective it was pure hell.
    first, it takes some real craftiness to park within walking distance of work. And if you start in the afternoon, count on adding a half hour to any reasonable walk-in.
    I was blessed with the section on either side of the line to the most popular bathroom in AA. I couldn’t get near it for four days and when it was over—there are no words. Most of us spent most of Art Fair watching the door and doing bathroom duty—which it’s surprising just how utterly filthy those benign looking tourists can be.

    For the most part, the store was full of a different type of folks—obnoxiously demanding and rude. And from what I gathered the store only gained in bargain books what it lost in the purchases of regular customers.

    I’m old enough to remember when the AAAF was truly a community event—much like Brandon describes. So Ypsi needs to be careful.

       —Nancy Jowske    Jul. 21 '06 - 08:28PM    #
  45. “first, it takes some real craftiness to park within walking distance of work. And if you start in the afternoon, count on adding a half hour to any reasonable walk-in.”

    Speaking of this, it’s been good to see all the buses so full of, I presume, locals who don’t normally ride the bus this week. Maybe we need to make parking more difficult downtown all the time…

       —Brandon    Jul. 21 '06 - 08:47PM    #
  46. I think I agree with the assessment built by Brandon/Nancy/Steve – I don’t care for the AAAFs because I can walk down three blocks of Main Street and not see a single artist id placard listing a Washtenaw County origin, nor see a single person I recognize, despite the fact that I can almost never walk three blocks in A2 anymore without seeing somebody I know. (The non-profit booths are the exception to this, and some streets are better than others. I often like Maynard.)

    I think the A2 Art Fairs have grown beyond the point where they’re a community event – there are still community members around, but many of them/us lay low or skip town while tourists pillage our streets.

    For this reason, I hope that the SAF’s organizers avoid the temptation to say, “Hey, let’s do this in Riverside Park next year!” Some events are meant to be about the community, other events just happen to occur within the community’s geography; both kinds of events are good (I bear no ill will towards Elvis Fest), but I hope the SAF sticks to the first kind. If popularity demands, maybe the organizers can consider holding it more frequently, at rotating small venues, rather than less frequently all in one go. Though I pity MM & co. who would have to coordinate an event every few months.

       —Murph    Jul. 21 '06 - 09:05PM    #
  47. Nancy, #41: well played.

    Though you better watch out, lest somebody test the strength of your oath by attempting to pry the secret rules of art out of you with poop-on-a-spoon-on-a-stick.

       —Murph    Jul. 21 '06 - 09:07PM    #
  48. Though you better watch out, lest somebody test the strength of your oath by attempting to pry the secret rules of art out of you with poop-on-a-spoon-on-a-stick.


    That sounds like a performance piece in which case—natch—it would be art. but it would help if we could work a branding iron in there somewhere. And a religious icon.

       —Nancy Jowske    Jul. 21 '06 - 10:02PM    #
  49. Oh please. Do I even need to mention that the poop will be sculpted into a likeness of the Madonna? Really, that should go without saying.

    Heating the spoon red-hot to incorporate branding is an excellent idea, especially since it’s already on a stick, and therefore insulated from the artist’s hand. This will additionally bring the sense of smell into the experience of the art, thereby guaranteeing that nobody in the vicinity enjoys the piece. This is definitely not something you want around your home!

       —Murph    Jul. 21 '06 - 10:31PM    #
  50. Are we kind of, sort of, returning to the topic of what constitutes “art?” If so, may I toss a Campbell’s soup can into the discussion? It might fit in well with the Madonna, or with Sean Penn.

    What pops into my mind is an essay by Arthur Danto that appeared in The Nation some years back. It seemed to function as a summary/abstract for a series of lectures compiled into a book titled “After the End of Art.” His narrative (in part, at least) is that after centuries of definition and redefinition, Western art comes full circle with the humble Brillo box. Boundaries fell, and groundbreaking “high art” merged once more with the mundane and with the everyday visual world:

    ” gradually became clear, first through the nouveaux realistes and pop, that there was no special way works of art had to look in contrast to what I have designated “mere real things.” To use my favorite example, nothing need mark the difference, outwardly, between Andy Warhol’s Brillo Box and the Brillo boxes in the supermarket. And conceptual art demonstrated that there need not even be a palpable visual object for something to be a work of visual art. That meant that you could no longer teach the meaning of art by example. It meant that as far as appearances were concerned, anything could be a work of art, and it meant that if you were going to find out what art was, you had to turn from sense experience to thought. You had, in brief, to turn to philosophy.”

    ”... The philosophical question of the nature of art, rather, was something that arose within art when artists pressed against boundary after boundary, and found that the boundaries all gave way. All typical sixties artists had that vivid sense of boundaries, each drawn by some tacit philosophical definition of art, and their erasure has left us the situation we find ourselves in today. Such a world is not, by the way, the easiest kind of world to live in, which explains why the political reality of the present seems to consist in drawing and defining boundaries wherever possible.”

    So, in a world where no boundaries exist despite determined efforts to draw them, one best not be too disparaging about that cute, lowbrow bumblebee-on-a-stick. A future Warhol may yet get it into the Museum of Modern Art.

    (The quotes above can be found at )

       —hale    Jul. 21 '06 - 11:25PM    #
  51. Art Fair, they should call it a Craft Show. I rarely saw any art as I walked around. Wooden toys, pottery cups to drink from, and jewelry (and did I mention jewelry, jewelry, jewelry). The Art Fair judges stated it in a News article when they said they chose vendors that make things people want, even if it’s not really art. Women like to look at jewelry, so they chose many jewelry dealers. I saw the stuff, most of it not art.

       —JT    Jul. 27 '06 - 07:19AM    #