Sunday, July 25, 1999

Getting parking takes a ‘find’ art

Getting parking takes a ‘find’ art
The Ann Arbor News
By Colleen Newvine, Rob Hoffman and Pamela Appea

Kathy Krick went into this year’s art fairs knowing parking was going to be a challenge.
Wednesday morning, her hunch proved right.

Krick, director of the State Street Art Fair, had to shuffle artists around and provide alternative parking this year because typically many of her fair’s artists park in the 786-space Maynard Street structure, closed this year for repairs.

Krick had encouraged many of the fair’s artists to park in the Liberty Square structure instead, and issues many of them four-day parking passes they paid for in advance.

Come Wednesday morning, Liberty Square was full by 8 a.m. She heard that some artists showed only their artist identification, not a parking pass, and were admitted, leading to overcrowding.

“There’s always some first-day parking glitches,” commiserated Dave Kronenberg, director of the Summer Art Fair.

Krick said things seemed much smoother Thursday after she’d talked to people at the structure and checked in with some of the artists.

“Well, at least I haven’t heard any complaints,” she said.

Fair? What fair?

Ask artists in the Ann Arbor Fairs what pieces have caught their eyes and the likely response is a bewildered chuckle or a shoulder shrug. With four long days of selling, often alone or with one assistant, there’s not much time for strolling the streets.
Loel Martin, a photographer from Skokie, Ill., has been in the Summer Art Fair (booth D373) about a decade now, and though he thinks the quality of the show overall is on the rise, he can’t cite any particular booth that called to him.

“I’ve only seen what’s between here and the car,” he said, gesturing from his booth on Liberty Street down toward Main Street. “Now you could ask me about my art …”

-March Russell, an assistant at the Harvard Reflections Booth on Main Street (D424), said he’s snuck a few minutes here and there to look at other booths. He’s enjoyed the variety of photography, and the different types of glass work, though he didn’t have one particular favorite of either.

“It’s fun to see the great variety of work that’s produced,” he said.
One he did like, not far from the Harvard Reflections booth, is the assortment of rattam tables by Sally Bright (booth D349.)

Not so early risers
Spencer Porter did something Thursday that he had never done before in his 27 years as an exhibitor at the Summer Art Fair on Main Street.
He cooked himself breakfast.
“I had time,” said Porter, an Ann Arbor resident who displays life-sized casts (D470.) “It was great.”

It’s all due to the art fair’s new opening time of 10 a.m., instead of the traditional 9 a.m. Artists lobbied for the later hour to cut down on the amount of time they spend outside every day.

Are people paying attention to the new hours? Not really. At seems to be an art fair tradition, people were out on the streets before 8 a.m. munching on bagel, sipping coffee and sneaking peeks at the open booths. Plus the AATA is still running shuttle buses starting at 8 a.m.

“We figure it’s going to take a few years for people to get to the new hours,” said Liz Nowland-Margolis, an AATA spokeswoman.

Artists Robert Martin of King George, Va., (D440) arrived on Main Street at 7:30 a.m. Thursday--the same time he had traditionally showed up to sell his sculptures made out of recycled musical instruments.

“If you’re doing an art show and you wait until 10 a.m., it’s not professional,” he said.
He gives good face

Mark Hammond of Grand Rapids sells a number of musical instruments like wooden drums and other noisemakers such as rain sticks and wind chimes on Liberty Street (D324.)

But even as children bang on a small wooden drum, Hammond offers something completely unrelated--a sign beckons people to take advantage of free facial massage.
By Thursday, he’s only done a handful of them.

“It usually takes a while for people to realize it’s not a gimmick,” he said.

The massage takes about a minute, with Hammond rubbing and pressing on various points of the face while the recipient sits in his chair behind the booth.

Hammond used to live in Thailand, and while there, he studies with monks and learned about how blood flows and the skin works.

Sign up, sign on

With 500,000 pairs of eyeballs expected this week, it’s prime time to share a message.
The not-for-profit row on East Liberty Street has its typical diverse range of booths, including the Southeast Michigan Naturists and Ronald McDonald House.

One anti-abortion advocate took advantage of the audience by carrying a large placard with a graphic picture of an aborted fetus and text describing the picture as the remains of a child.

“Oh no, we’re in the weird section,” Holly Speers, an Ontario potter, said to her two fellow potters. As they briskly walked by the booths, the group explained they drove in Thursday from Canada to see the art, not to listen to any impromptu lectures.

Hare Krishna monks Giri-Govardhana Das and Iksraku-Das, both of Detroit, have come to the art fairs for years to talk to people about the “pure love of God.” Their both occasionally offers free vegetarian food, a time when they admit they are the busiest.

The Michigan Greyhound connection is a group that works to find non-lethal alternatives for the estimated 30,000 greyhound dogs--a year--that are bred but then not necessarily used for racing.

As volunteer Stacey Ignagni sad by one of two greyhounds--who were well protected from the heat under the booth’s tent--she said the art fairs are a great way to publicize the dogs’ plight.
Much less weighty was the message touted by an employee of Arbor Brewing Co. “Beer. It’s like art, but wetter.”

Smile, You’re on CTV.

For the ninth year in a row, the Community Television Network has its camera trained on the art fairs.

At their tent on South Fifth Avenue and Liberty Street, producers with the Ann Arbor public-access channel try to entice passers-by[s] into saying hello on camera. One in four usually are amenable, says Ralph Sameron, CTV’s facility manager.
“After a while, you can spot who you should approach.”

About 20 hours of tape will be distilled into 14 hours of programming. CTV began broadcasting the results Wednesday night. Most people just say a few words, like “Hi mom” and other greetings, Sameron said. But there are always a few people who like to juggle, perform dramatic readings and even show off their pet snakes.

Sidewalk sales

With the art comes the sales.

Many local businesses set up tables bearing discounted merchandise, and other businesses plan on increase sales during the fairs.

Sales at most downtown ice cream establishments were busy Thursday. With lines well out the door at Stucchi’s most of the day, Megan Cagney, the manager of the sore on South State Street and Washtenaw Avenue estimated that the State Street location sold at least 150 gallons of ice cream.

At Kilwin’s on East Liberty Street, the “swamped” owner Karen Piehutkoski estimated that her store did well on opening art fair day--despite the rain.

“What we sold yesterday was what we might (usually) sell in an average week,” she said, noting that the day’s sales topped 200 gallons.

Copping a spot
The Ann Arbor Fire Department has long been a fixture of the Ann Arbor Arts Fairs. This year, the Ann Arbor Police joined the roster.

Vicki Motsinger, crime analyst with the department, said she’s been surprised by the number of visitors she’s seen at the booth on Main and Liberty streets.

People have asked a variety of art fair questions, like where the find the bathrooms, but they’ve also taken an interest in a display of illegal drugs.
Better bags

When Shary Brown sat down last winter to view slides of the 1998 Street Art Fair, she was pleased with what she saw.

Except those little yellow things that kept appearing in her pictures.

“I didn’t know what they were,” she said. “Then when I saw one up close, I realized. ‘Oh, it’s a parking meter. That’s pretty ugly. What can I do? I can decorate it,’ so I did.”

This summer, instead of being covered with city-issued bright yellow bags, the area’s 43 meters feature bags decorated with this year’s Street Art Fair logo--a picture of a wooden shack reminiscent of the fair’s former booths.

Originally published July 25, 1999