While the hottest days of summer drive some to take cover in air-conditioned enclaves, others, some 500,000, take to the streets of Ann Arbor in the name of art. Now in its 55th year, from the Townie Party on July 14th to the fair’s closing on the 20th, the Ann Arbor Street Art Fair continues its tradition. A quick glance at this year’s vendor roster reveals that the majority of artists come from out of state, making packing up shop to head home more challenging for those coming from Washington, Florida or Texas. We wondered: who are these traveling artists, what happens next for them, and what do they make of us Ann Arborites?
From Nicaragua to Ann Arbor
After moving from New York to New Orleans, artist Layla Ardalan (booth A235) pursued a career in two-dimensional mixed media, incorporating “printmaking on handmade paper and fabrics, using other media such as oil pastels and embroidery.” Her travels further provide materials and inspiration for her brightly-colored, textural pieces. Ardalan is next headed to Patagonia and then Japan.
With so much time spent globetrotting, it’s no surprise that Ardalan works only a few select art fairs each year. Before arriving in Ann Arbor, Ardalan will be showing her work in Madison, WI. Thrilled to be returning to Michigan, she says that “life on the road is a wonderful way to establish clientele in different parts of the country.”
A Family Affair at the Art Fair
In 2012, Doug Wilkerson (booth A214) started Only Dog Art, LLC with his wife Risa and son Braden. Wilkerson tried his hand at sculpture and drawing, but inspiration struck when painting a portrait of his dog. Says Wilkerson of his work, “I try to capture the distinctive relationship people have with dogs that elevates them to being members of the family. I like painting in large format to magnify moments and allow an appreciation of often unnoticed details.”
This year’s festivities mark the first time that Wilkerson will be exhibiting his work at an art fair. He and his family are no strangers to the Fair, though, having attended previously while living in Michigan. They’re making a trek from North Carolina for the event—and afterwards, it’s back to the easel. For Doug Wilkerson, art is a full-time gig, with a provision for a “weekly round of disc golf, just for fun.”
Chain Mail, Coast to Coast
When it comes to art fairs, Elaine Unzicker (booth A230) of Ojai, California is something of a Viking. And she could certainly outfit one, touting her chain mail clothing and accessories across the country, exhibiting at 15-18 art shows every year. What makes Ann Arbor stand out from the rest? Unzicker says the great restaurants are an appeal, as well as the fairgoers. “The Ann Arbor Street Art Fair has a sophisticated clientele with a great love of art,” says Unzicker. “Art collectors from all over the country come to the show.”
Unzicker’s work in chain mail began at Illinois State University, while she was pursuing her MFA. Using different types of metal, Unzicker creates apparel that’s both delicate and strong: dresses, scarves, skirts, gloves, and more.
Every artist’s story is as different as their work. It’s easy to drift from booth to booth, the art displayed like a blur of color and texture. This year, take the time to ask the artist about their process, their work, their history. The real art lies deeper than the canvas.