Ann Arbor Art Fair to make full return in July

Directors of three fairs reverse course after announcing cancellation

Credit: Ann Arbor Street Art Fair, The Original

ANN ARBOR – The Ann Arbor Art Fair is officially back this summer.

The directors of the Ann Arbor Street Fair, The Original, the Ann Arbor State Street Art Fair and the Ann Arbor Summer Art Fair jointly announced their decision on Thursday morning to proceed planning this year’s event.

The Ann Arbor State Street Art Fair announced separately on Tuesday that it was moving forward with its portion of the event.

The move comes just two weeks after they announced the cancellation of the event due to COVID restrictions. Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s decision to lift all outdoor event capacity restrictions as of June 1 put the event back on the table, said the directors.

“To have the event, we couldn’t have any restrictions in places,” said director of the Summer Art Fair, Karen Delhey. “So many people rely on this event. Not just artists but the community and businesses. We thought: If we could do it, we should.

“It’s been devastating to see how artists’ lives have changed without these events. I’m getting emails right now from artists that are saying: ‘Thank you so much. It means so much to us.’ It’s really moving and I think people are ready for events again.”

The directors met with officials from the Washtenaw County Health Department and the city of Ann Arbor, who determined a safe event could be achieved this summer. The Health Department will continue to work with organizers and staff to ensure a safe experience as COVID still remains a public health concern. The directors said there may be an opportunity to offer rapid testing at the event.

Director of the Street Art Fair, The Original, Mo Riley, echoed Delhey’s comments about the impact more than a year of canceled shows has had on artists.

“To be able to help them after this long COVID shutdown is very fulfilling,” said Riley. “It also impacts the local businesses and the hotels that desperately need the business. And it’s good for our bottom lines. I think all of us struggled financially from canceling our events because that’s where our incomes come from.”

This year’s event will run for three days instead of its usual four from Thursday, July 15 through Saturday, July 17. Timing and limited resources played a factor in the decision, said the directors.

Booths will also be spaced out to allow for social distancing. Masks will be encouraged and hand sanitizing stations will be placed throughout the event.

All three directors polled their respective artists and said an overwhelming majority responded that they would attend.

With less time than normal to pull the event together, the fairs are now seeking community support in the form of volunteers, temporary staff and sponsors.

The Ann Arbor Art Fair is the largest juried fair in the nation. It spans 30 city blocks and features nearly 1,000 artists, drawing nearly half a million visitors to the college town. The three nonprofit art fairs that comprise the event each have their own independent jurying process.

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