Ann Arbor Art Fair: Four fairs, four artistic flavors

A brief profile of each of the Ann Arbor Art Fairs

By Sarah M. Parlette - Associated Producer

Credit | Ann Arbor Street Fair

ANN ARBOR - Ready or not, Art Fair is coming.

Parking will be challenging and the city-consuming Art Fair will devour downtown. However what most people don’t know is that our Art Fair is actually four individual fairs that flow into each other: The Ann Arbor Street Art Fair, The Original, The Ann Arbor Summer Art Fair, the State Street District Fair and the South University Fair.

While the different fairs seamlessly blend together, each has its own personality and each deserves its own day -- how convenient that Art Fair is four days long! 

Here is what the directors of each Art Fair had to say about their respective fairs.

Ann Arbor Street Art Fair, “The Original”

According to Ann Arbor Street Fair Director Maureen Riley, "The Street Art Fair is the original fair of the four fairs that make up the Ann Arbor Art Fair. Now located on the streets surrounding the historic Burton Carillon Tower and the tree-lined central campus of the University of Michigan, the Original Ann Arbor Art Fair is produced by a non-profit arts organization and is known for consistently high quality, all original fine art and fine craft."

Tucked a bit away from the other arms of the Art Fair, the Street Fair is nicely compacted between E. Washington and N. University. An art activity demo zone on Ingalls Mall will offer activities like geometric sculpture building, solar system necklaces and felt friends. Spirited street performers, an art demo zone, and the Fountain stage will delight and entertain and over 200 artists will come together, to create a sense of community.

Riley also stated, "In 2015, the Street Art Fair was voted one of the 'Top Ten Best Art Fairs' in the country in a USA TODAY Reader's Poll."


The calm before the storm. #setupday

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Ann Arbor Summer Art Fair - The Guild

According to Summer Art Fair Director Karen Delhey, "About ten years following the premiere of the original Ann Arbor Street Fair, a group of young artists from Ann Arbor began working on a separate fair focused on giving emerging artists, craftspeople and art students a chance to 'take to the streets.' This new fair was called the Free Arts Festival, which eventually became an official member of the Ann Arbor Art Fair and, in the mid-70s, was renamed the Ann Arbor Summer Art Fair. The Guild became a formal nonprofit 501c(3) in 1981 and is now recognized as one of the largest membership organizations of professional artists in North America."

Hosting 375 artists and organized by the nonprofit, membership association of independent artists, The Guild of Artists and Artisans, the Summer Art Fair will steal the spotlight on parts of State St., Liberty and Main street. The Summer Art Fair Stage in the Palio parking lot, sponsored by The Ark, will have musicians like Soltura, Chris Dupont, and the Jeremy Kettel band to serenade and inspire while visitors peruse artist booths or snack on something tasting from the food court. There will be an Emerging Artists booth, Chalk the Walk with David Zinn and special guests.  

Delhey stated, "The 49th Annual Ann Arbor Summer Art Fair is a fair led by and for artists with something for everyone!"

State Street District

Adding to the busyness of the boutique businesses and popular restaurants, art displays will sprawl from E. Washington down to S. State Street and spill over to Jefferson and along Liberty, the State Street District Art fair combines contemporary flair and traditional craftsmanship.

"The State Street Art Fair started 51 years ago to compliment the sidewalk sales of the local businesses," said director Frances Todoro. "This partnership continues today as local businesses extend their patios and join artists from all over the country in the city streets for four days.[…] The standards set for acceptance reflect in the artists’ dedication to excellence and quality. Our Emerging Artist program is also a highlight of the State Street Art Fair as artists that are new to the outdoor art fair experience are able to ease their way into things as they learn from others."

South University

Spreading from the corner of State Street. and South University to Forest Street, "The South U area offers original art for every pocketbook” according to its website. On South Church Street, the main stage will host musicians that beer and wine garden drinkers can listen to as they sip their beverages of choice. Official souvenirs can be bought on the corner where South. University and East University meet right next to water stations. Between the stores, restaurants, eclectic artists, the S. University Art Fair blends flavors that fair-goers have come to look forward to every year.   

South U. Director Maggie Ladd reiterated this from the fair’s website, "Ann Arbor’s South University Art Fair is where the past meets the future, cutting-edge creations blend with traditional styles, and local and international artists come together to bring you the unmistakable flavor that epitomizes the Ann Arbor Art Fair experience."

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