2021 Ann Arbor Art Fair canceled due to pandemic

ANN ARBOR – The 2021 Ann Arbor Art Fair has been canceled for the second year in a row due to concerns over COVID-19 safety at the event.

The directors of the event made the announcement on Wednesday afternoon after months of back-and-forth while Michigan led the nation in COVID cases in a recent surge.

While the directors of the Ann Arbor Street Art Fair, the Original, the State Street Fair and the Summer Art Fair worked to find a way to safely host the event under state COVID restrictions, they realized it wasn’t possible.

“With an event this size, there’s no way we can control the capacity and density to the extent that these orders require,” said executive director of the Ann Arbor Summer Art Fair and The Guild, Karen Delhey. “It’s just too big.”

The Ann Arbor Art Fair is the largest juried art fair in the country and attracts nearly half a million visitors to the downtown area over four days in July. While organizers know there may be a possibility that Gov. Gretchen Whitmer will lift restrictions on outdoor events by the time the fair would take place, they said the risk would be too great.

“We hung on to hope that restrictions might change, but we have now run out of time,” director of the Ann Arbor Street Art Fair, The Original Mo Riley said in a release. “We all think it is likely that capacity limits will be lifted by July, but there are no guarantees. It would be unfair to ask artists to take that risk.”

The nonprofit organizations that run the fair have seen their streams of revenue cut due to cancelations of events over the past year, said Delhey. The South University Area Association -- which formerly ran the South University Fair -- dissolved during the pandemic due to lack of funding.

“It’s hard on all of us,” said Delhey. “Arts and culture organizations have not gotten a lot of the grant support that other organizations have.”

In the meantime, Delhey said she encourages residents and visitors alike to support artists and downtown Ann Arbor businesses who will be most impacted by the event’s cancelation.

“Get out there and show them some love this summer so they can survive as well,” she said.

Organizers said they are looking forward to the event returning the third week of July 2022.