I’ve been home from the Ann Arbor Art Fair for just over a week, and I think it has taken this long to truly absorb just what has happened since I last updated this blog! This is my first year doing the whole art fair thing, I learn something new with every event. But nothing has been more of a lesson than my time at the Ann Arbor Art Fair.
First of all let me remind you that just 3 days before the show in A2, I participated in the Haddonfield Crafts and Fine Arts show in Haddonfield, NJ. That was my very first multi-day outdoor show, and boy what a hot one it was! I was lucky to have the help of my mom on day 1, and twin sister day 2. Being so close to my hometown, it was awesome to see so many people from my past! High school friends, former Hebrew school teachers, and multiple families I used to babysit for whose kids are now full blown teenagers and young adults! But alas, sales were slow for myself and my neighbors. I enjoyed having the help of my family, and will probably do more shows back in the area in the future. When I hit the road on Monday for my 11 hour drive back to Indiana, I was reeeeeally questioning my sanity for signing up for two shows back to back! I made it home safely, did a bunch of laundry, slept, and repacked to head to Michigan bright and early at 4 AM on Wednesday!
3:30 AM, Wednesday 7/17/19
Alarm goes off. Shower. Brush teeth. Hop in the car and head to Indianapolis to pick up my best friend Sophia, the only person I know who is crazy and kind enough to agree to take this adventure with me! We made it to Ann Arbor at 10:15 AM, just in time to start setting up on William St between State and Thompson. The location becomes VERY important later on. Set up goes smooth aside from some drama between the artists on either side of my booth. Sophia and I are both queens of positivity, so we managed to stay above the drama and get the booth set up quickly! We had the rest of our day to explore A2, and we loved wandering around watching the city prepare for the craziness ahead. 29 city blocks of art. The country’s biggest art fair was almost here and the excitement was almost too much to stand.
Thursday morning, the art fair officially began! The weather was brutally hot but we were prepared with fans, coolers full of ice, plenty of water, lots of fresh fruit and snacks to keep us energized, and our ever-positive attitudes. More drama between our neighbors, but again we stay above the fray. The afternoon brought a wild storm almost out of nowhere, we were all hanging onto our tents and displays as the squall came through. They left as fast as they came, and we ended up having an incredibly beautiful evening. Little did I know that it was foreshadowing what was to come. Before day 1 was complete, the onsite jury handed out awards, and I was given best in jewelry for my show! I was shocked and grateful, and couldn’t wait for the next day!
Friday brought lots of weather challenges, but sales were up and the crowds were better than the day before. We artists all had our eyes on our weather radars, and were concerned about storms that were possible later in the day. After having to baton down the hatches 3 times throughout the afternoon, some folks decided to pack up early and call it a night to avoid whatever storms were possibly ahead. Unfortunately, due to the placement of my section of the show, we were caught in a wind tunnel between the two tallest buildings in downtown Ann Arbor. Around 7 pm, an intense storm materialized seemingly out of nowhere, and winds 70 mph+ came tearing through the show. I was inside my zipped up tent trying to pack up my inventory to take to the hotel for the night when, due to a poorly weighted tent next door, the front of my tent lifted off the ground and started to topple over. I was one of 3 tents in a row, and 6 tents on our street to be damaged. My inventory was thrown into the street, my displays were broken and scratched, my banner was trampled. My positivity disappeared in that moment. Pure panic set in. I hurried and tried to get my tent walls off so they couldn’t catch the wind coming through. Good samaritans, as well as other artists, patrons, and show staff acted quickly and helped get all the debris under an overhang. There were people injured from flying debris, tangled tent frames everywhere. I was one of the lucky ones, my tent was mostly intact, I was not injured, and my jewelry is resilient. I can’t say the same for the pottery and glass I heard crashing around me. Some artists lost basically everything. I felt paralyzed for some time, debating whether or not to just throw everything in my car and drive the 5 hours home then and there.
Thanks to the support of my friends who were in town for the show, as well as the kindness of the people of Ann Arbor, I was able to calm down and make a plan to start fresh the next day on another street. I didn’t want to call it quits. My art show Sherpa Scotty Jones told me that every artist loses at least one tent in their career, and welcomed me to the club. I was starting to see this as the most incredible hands-on education I could ask for. After several hours, we packed up my inventory and headed back to the hotel for a long night of detangling chains while watching Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.
Saturday, we rebuilt. And I truly mean we rebuilt! I felt like a phoenix rising from the ashes, with the reinforcement of cinderblock weights, a new tent, and a safer location out of the wind tunnel, we turned it around! Was it the ideal location? Hell no. Were sales slow? Kinda. But we had cool neighbors, fun squirrels to feed, and a better weather forecast on the horizon. The show organizers took much more precaution on Saturday and closed us down 3 hours early to prepare for another crazy storm coming in that night. We were grateful for the warning, and high tailed it back to the hotel for drinks and apps before our dinner reservations with friends later that night. This time we watched the storm roll in from the safety of the hotel patio, and enjoyed the peace of mind we had knowing our tent was safe. That night after dinner, Sophia and I walked back to our tent to check, and were surprised to see more tents destroyed from the early evening storms! Again! We found our tent safe and sound, and meandered back to the hotel, going over the events we’d made it through so far. We both agreed, no matter how crazy things had gotten, we were having a fan-freaking-tastic time in Ann Arbor, and were grateful for the experience.
Sunday went by so fast, too fast. Sunday was our best day for sales, sure... but it was also the best day for my spirit! The souls who came through the tent were extra special. We felt a deep connection to a handful of folks we were lucky to interact with, whether they were buying customers or not. Sunday was the day that solidified my decision to come back to Ann Arbor next summer and try this whole crazy thing again. The show ended at 6, we were packed up and in the car by 7:20, and were on our way back to Indiana by 8 PM. Sophia and I spent the whole drive back recounting our adventure, cementing it into our memory as one of the best weeks we’d ever had.
I’m so grateful for this crazy, art-centered, adventure-filled, unpredictable life. See you in 2020, Ann Arbor!