In The Life and Death of American Cities, Jane Jacobs describes the life of a neighborhood comes from the make-up of the neighborhood. If we continue with that thought process, than the State Street Art Fair is a major organ of the District and the overall quality of the neighborhood.
Fifty years ago, the neighborhood decided to follow the Street Art Fair on South University and began the State Street Art Fair. The fair was made up of artists and sidewalk sales to help the neighborhood business get through the summer. Over the years, State Street’s eclectic menagerie has developed into a thriving art fair with many returning artists and members excited for the annual event. Many returning fairgoers return to the State Street Art Fair for the same businesses they love to see every year. They return to see the returning artists and to see new, cutting edge artists. The fairgoers form lines for our great restaurants and at our retailers who are having great sales to help them clear inventory. It is four days of hot temperatures and lots of excitement.
But, in the end we return to the starting basis for the fair...to expand bargain days and encourage business in the slower summer months. The additional 350,000 to 500,000 people that come to Ann Arbor during the art fair provide our local businesses with an income stream that many other college towns do not see. The influx of customers and income enable businesses to flourish year round. Our local seasonal shops, such as gelato and ice cream are able to make enough extra income to sustain them through the lean winter months.
The Art Fair also provides local shops with exposure to a larger demographic that they would not get otherwise. The District has been able to maintain many of their local ‘mom-and-pop’ stores. The sidewalk sales during art fair give our local retailers the opportunity to expand their square footage for 4 days and expand their services. Local retailers are able to sell much of their seasonal inventory to prepare for the fall season and the coming year. Customers also have the opportunity to make purchases at great prices. Even our national retailers take advantage of the bargain opportunity. Seasonal items are shipped into the Ann Arbor stores from the midwest region to help liquidate inventory. For the fair goers it means more great retail deals.
In 2016, the days of the fair shift from Wednesday thru Saturday to Thursday thru Sunday. The decision was made due to requests from artists. As fairs have changed over the years the circuit schedule needed to be met for the fair to continue to attract great artists. However, this was done at the expense of our churches. The District worked closely with our four churches and the City/DDA, and continues to do so to secure continued free parking for their families attending Sunday services. While parking was accessible and free, attendance numbers were down. As the fair continues, the District will work to help the churches raise their attendance on art fair Sunday. Another way to increase the quality of our neighborhood.
The District is looking forward to the next 50 years of the State Street Art Fair and it’s fabulous artists that make the fair possible. The State Street District looks forward to the State Street Art Fair’s continued success and impact on its economic vitality.