We chatted with Maureen Riley, Executive Director of the Ann Arbor Art Fair, who got us very excited about the Townie Street Party and filled us in on a few of her favorite things about Ann Arbor.
How did you first get involved with the Ann Arbor Art Fair? I was offered the position as Executive Director of the Original Fair after a national search to replace the retiring ED in 2009, although I attended the fair several times before working here.
What do you look forward to most about the Art Fair? My favorite part is seeing the new art, whether it is new work from returning artists or work from artists participating for the first time. The artists become friends over time and it’s kind of like a homecoming when they all arrive for the fair.
Tell us about the Townie Street Party! I LOVE the Townie Street Party! It kicks off Art Fair week and gives the community a chance to celebrate before the crowds arrive. It’s full of interactive activities hosted by local groups, local music, local beer, local food, etc. This year, the Ben Daniels Band will headline the stage, preceded by the RFD Boys and Mr. B’s Joybox Express.
My favorite part of the Townie Party, is the Youth Art Fair – an artists’ market where young people in grades 4-12 sell their art. We want it to be a great experience for the kids and I get so proud when I see it come to fruition. Truth be told, I usually get a little choked up.
Another special component of the Townie Street Party is the Ann Arbor Mile – Dart for Art. It’s a one-mile run/walk that is open to everyone and starts at 6:30PM. However, what’s so special about it is that at 6:00, there is an elite division race. It’s so cool to watch these incredible runners cross the finish line. Last year the winning time was 4:11! The Townie Party takes place on the Monday before the Art Fair (July 17, 2017) and runs from 5:00-9:30PM. For more info visit www.TownieStreetParty.com.
What is Ann Arbor’s best-kept secret? It could be the time of year, but what immediately comes to mind is the Nichols Arboretum’s Peony Garden. The largest collection of peonies in the world! Who knew there was so much to know about peonies? I’m a bit biased, though, because I love flower gardening.
What are your favorite places to meet with friends? It’s hard to pick, but my husband and I are very fond of Isalita and The Last Word. In the summer, we mostly like to invite friends over to our house to enjoy our patio and yard.
What do you miss most about Ann Arbor if you’ve been away? The overall vibe. People say there’s no place like Ann Arbor…I think that’s true.