Looking Forward & Back: Ann Arbor Art Fair returns in 2021 after a year's absence


Art Fair, July 1960, North side of South University in plaza southeast of West Hall (Engineering Arch), facing southeast

The first Art Fair, July 1960, as seen from the north side of South University, facing southeast. Repository: Bentley Historical Library.

Last year was supposed to be the 60th annual Ann Arbor Art Fair, but it was canceled because of the pandemic. It looked like the 2021 edition wasn't going to happen either, and it was even officially called off for a while, but once it looked like Michigan would start opening up again for the summer, the Art Fair was reinstated and takes place July 15-17.

By this point, you know the drill with Art Fair: parking is difficult, you love or hate the crowded streets, it's usually hot and muggy. But if you need a quick guide to parking and a map of the 2021 event, MLive has a brief article with both.

And if you're wondering what goes into Art Fair prep for the creatives, landscape painter Karin Wager Coron talked to WEMU's David Fair about her routine.

But if you're wondering a bit about the history of the Art Fair, in 2009 the Ann Arbor District Library's archives team put together a wonderful collection of photos, posters, and more on the occasion of the event's 50th anniversary of its conception—conceived in 1959, launched July 20-22, 1960:

"50 Years of Originality: A History of the Ann Arbor Street Art Fair

In 2009, the Ann Arbor Street Art Fair marked its fiftieth year of connecting artists and art lovers. During that time, Ann Arbor's original art fair expanded from 142 artists sitting on the street to an internationally-recognized art fair. It spawned three additional art fairs held at the same time each year, with which it draws more than half a million visitors to be one of the largest art fairs in North America. Despite the growth of the art fair, some goals haven't changed from summer to summer, particularly the goal of bringing great art to Ann Arbor. To learn more about the development of the art fairs in Ann Arbor, read Grace Shackman's article Flower Power in Bloom from our Ann Arbor Observer: Then & Now collection.

This project seeks to document the 50 year history of the Ann Arbor Street Art Fair through words, images, and sounds; click on the history panels below to read about the path the Art Fair has taken browse a collection of over 100 images including photos and promotional materials listen to the memories of art fair participants and visitors, or watch videos to remind yourself about what has made the art fair last a half century.

Ann Arbor Art Fair history panels

Christopher Porter is a library technician and the editor of Pulp.