I haven't "attended" the Ann Arbor Street Art Fair since 2011. Last year, I was too busy learning my new job at Crazy Wisdom and working nights at my then-main job at a grocery store (CW has since replaced it). This year, however, I spent all of Friday downtown, working two shifts at the bookstore with a break in between to explore a little of the surrounding fair.
It was really a dinner break, but I took the opportunity to wander the incredibly hot streets and see what the artists were offering this year. I went down Main to the little food avenue set up along W. Washington between Main and Ashley. I thought I'd pick up some street food and wander the booths, but I found nothing tempting and was a little taken aback by the prices, so I decided instead to go to Hommus Express on Liberty and pay roughly the same amount (actually, it turned out to be less) for better, tastier, more freshly made food - chicken shawarma and fries, yum!!
Along the way, I passed a few street performers, one of my favorite parts of festivals. There was a girl I don't think I'd seen before posing as a living statue all painted silver. The crowd around her seemed particularly perplexed by her hair and couldn't decide if she wore a wig or had sprayed her hair that color. A sign next to her read "The more you tip, the more my spell is broken." Whenever someone put a tip in her basket, she slowly changed position. When I snapped my photo, she was saluting someone who had just tipped her. At least, it looks like a salute to me. Her movement was very fluid. I don't know how long she'd been standing there, but she must have been very disciplined. It was very hot and humid that day. (It always is for Art Fair. It also usually storms at least once.)
Now, it wouldn't be an Ann Arbor festival without our very own Violin Monster, and I found him performing opposite the living statue in his signature aerobics outfit complete with neon sweat band. (Another of his signature outfits is a T-shirt that reads "Pretty Girls Rock!") I would have stayed to listen to a tune, maybe do a little dance, but I had limited time to find food while also exploring the art fair, so after taking the photo, I moved on down Liberty toward State.
The Ann Arbor Street Art Fair is huge. I don't think I've ever made it past Liberty, though it goes down State and across U of M's campus. There definitely wasn't enough time to explore all of it, which is a shame as I have heard the farther out artists are more unique and local to Ann Arbor. (People come from all over to sell their wares at this fair.) I found plenty of garden stakes and quotable plaques to hang around the home, the kinds of things you find at every art fair. For one or so block of Liberty I also encountered booths for local groups such as churches, atheist groups, political organizations, and other causes. There were. of course, a number of giveaways that I might have investigated with more time to kill. Nothing terribly interesting, mind, just free swag, of which I am generally a fan.
An interesting feature, I think, of the A2 Fair is that you can buy gift certificates. It's a better present than a card for the mall! (Okay, it's more unique anyway.) Also, there are four fairs that make up the whole fair, which is why it is such a large event. There is the Ann Arbor Street Art Fair, which is all I've ever seen, the State Street Area Art Fair, the Ann Arbor Summer Art Fair, and Ann Arbor's South University Art Fair. The whole city gets involved, though. I particularly enjoy the plethora of sidewalk sales from some of my favorite shops, like Orchid Lane. There is also plenty of live music (beyond performers like Violin Monster).
I know a lot of local people get annoyed when the Art Fair comes around. Traffic increases, streets get shut down, and parking becomes more scarce (though I have some tricks for finding good parking that I will not share). I don't mind, though. While working downtown, I get to meet people from all over and we do have some fun conversations. I like talking with the artists about their work and, being artists, they enjoy talking about their art. It was also nice to see some of the artists whose art we sell at Catching Fireflies at their booths with works that we don't carry at the store.
Art Fair is just a part of life in Ann Arbor, and I, for one, enjoy it!