A revelation amid a sea of art
I’ve never really been an artsy person. Finger-painting and play-doh aside, I have about as little experience with art as one can have. This may come as a surprise considering the venue of this article, but cards on the table, I’ve never taken an art class, or really studied art in any facet whatsoever.
So when I decided to spend my summer at school, the famous Ann Arbor Art Fair did not even cross my mind. Of course I had heard of it, but it was not exactly toward the top of my list of priorities for the summer. Only after I secured an internship with the University of Michigan News Service did the famed festival pique my interest; the prestige, the crowds, the art, but hanging over everything was the pure unknown.
It all happened very quickly.
One day the tents weren’t there, the next they were. And once the tents were up, then came the massive crowds, people from all walks of life; different cities, states, countries, continents. They poured in like migrating birds, and once their nests were settled, the festivities commenced.
I waited a few hours before going out the first day; I wanted to give it a chance to fill up. So around noon, I strolled out the door and down Church St. to the South University area. As I made my way to the fair, I noticed the progress that had been made since the last time I had seen it. Probably triple the amount of tents, not to mention various decorations, signs and attracting tools designed to lure unsuspecting art enthusiasts.
And then I turned onto South-U, and was mesmerized by the immensity. I stepped into the 2013 Ann Arbor Art Fair having never been exposed to it, or anything like it, before.
It looked more like an ancient bazaar than an art fair. White tents as far as the eye could see, lining the familiar streets. Curious sightseers squinted and asked questions. Artists alternated between overwhelming enthusiasm, inviting viewers to enter, probing for potential buyers, and dejected apathy, slouched in a chair, hoping nobody touches their art, despite the fourteen signs that clarify otherwise. Sculptures, paintings, clothing, jewelry, food, drinks. Anything one could possibly want or need, especially in almost triple digit heat. Kettel corn next to a collection of watercolors, Bic lighters next to classic Constructivism and Suprematism. I was engulfed in the experience, enthralled by the diversity.
I chatted with artists, learned their techniques, their specialties, their processes, their passions. In minutes, I sponged up various facts about African masks, acrylic painting, hand-carved wooden car clocks and intricate tapestries. The information was infinite, gratuitous, and astonishingly fascinating.
And that’s when I had an epiphany.
I didn’t need art classes and books to learn. Nor did I need some prestigious expert to relay uniform knowledge. I experienced firsthand the true beauty and desire that art evokes. I did not need to stare at a painting and hope for a connection, but rather link with the art through an intimate and in-depth involvement.
Through the immeasurable fervor and love of the artists, I truly experienced the dynamic beauty of the Ann Arbor Art Fair.
And, of course a corndog and a funnel cake.
Scott Freedman is from Marietta, Georgia, 30 minutes northwest of Atlanta. He is a junior majoring in Spanish and History at the University of Michigan.