Sunday, July 18, 1999

Close to Home

Close to Home
The Ann Arbor News
By Pamela Appea

Even many local artists who regularly tour the annual art fairs in places like New York City or Santa Fe say there’s no place like home.

Especially during Art Fairs week in Ann Arbor.

Many of the potters, photographers, craft workers and painters who make the Ann Arbor area their year-round homes say that despite the fairs; grueling demands, they will still feel a sense of relief when the three fairs comprising the event begin on Wednesday.

It’s four days of the year when they won’t have to book plane travel, stay at motels and live out of their suitcase to show and sell their wares.

“(It’s a relief) just to sleep in your own bed,” said Margo West, a ceramic artist who is participating in the State Street Art Fair for the fourth time.

West, an Ann Arbor native, said she loves participating in the State Street fair—even though each vendor spends typical 12-hour days in the July sun and “it’s hard to get away, even for a moment.”

But, she said, the long days are worth it, since she’s at home.

Artists, even the locals, have to go through a rigorous screening process to be included in one of the art fairs. Many artists applied in February, then waited for the decisions in April.

Michael Waldchen, a furniture maker, said it’s a thrill to be accepted into an Ann Arbor fair. He said he probably shares the feeling with other Ann Arbor artists –“no matter how many years they have been doing it.”

With an estimated half-million people coming to the art fairs, most local artists spent last week completing booth arrangements and waiting for extra orders of business cards.

Most artists said they won’t produce rush artwork in the weeks before the fairs. Brighton-area song-bird painter Catherine McClung said she sent her last painting out in early July to be framed.

Local artists said one advantage of being at home was that they didn’t have to worry about broken pottery, exceeding airline weight limitations or misplacing a bag with important fair information – all of which can cause stress when traveling to fairs far away from home.

The comfort of being around family is also part of the home-turf advantage.

Ann Arbor woodworker Mark Orr and Jan Dutcher, a painter, said they never take their children with them to out-of-state art fairs.

“You can’t be watching your children and watching your booth,” Orr said.

Even weekend out-of-state trips—while their three children stay with Orr’s mother—are difficult, he said.

But when the artists are in Ann Arbor, the children ages 11, 9, and 4 can visit their parents at the fairs.

A long-time State Street art fair artist, McClung said the Ann Arbor fair is now one of the only fairs that she attends. When she was starting out in the late 1970s, McClung recalled 25 shows in a year.

After the birth of her daughter 24 years ago, McClung remembered how she juggled substitute teaching, painting and fairs.

After a year or two, though McClung knew that she wanted to do art full-time which also made it easier to be with her young daughter.

For McClung, the art fairs—both then and now—are fun.

“It’s like going to a big cocktail part, without the cocktails,” she said.

Local Angle
State Street Art Fair:
Total artists: 300
Area artists 7

Ann Arbor Street Art Fair: 190
Area artists: 25

Summer Art Fair: 550
Area artists: 45

Photo Caption One: Mark Orr makes some measurements on a table leg as he and partner Jan Dutcher work the afternoon away in Orr’s Ann Arbor garage recently. The two were preparing to exhibit this week.

Photo Caption Two: Roann Ogawa glazes a giant ceramic bead recently at her Ann Arbor home. Ogawa and other members of the Ann Arbor Potter’s Guild will have display space on South University Avenue.

Photo Credit: Lon Horwedel

Originally published Sunday, July 18, 1999