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Sales Up For Art Fairs

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Chawn Whitesitt Looks Over Potted Plant During Fair On Maynard Street

Sales Up For Art Fairs

Business Labor Reporter

Four days of sunshine and a new city ordinance against “poachers” are being credited with the success of last week's Ann Arbor art fairs.

Solid estimates on attendance and sales during the annual festivities are hard to find. But initial feelings by fair organizers are that the 250,000 visitor mark predicted before the event was met and exceeded.

As for sales, they appear to be up 10 per cent from last year, according to Richard Brunvand, an official with the non-profit Ann Arbor Street Art, Fair, Inc.

His organization’s 250 professionally juried art exhibitors appear to have sold about $300,000 worth of their handiwork this year.

That's based on increases from 1973, when sales were $200,000.

Strong sales were reported at the city’s three other art fairs also.

"Most artists I talked to said they had a good fair,” says John Schreer, chairman of the State Street Area Art Fair and assistant store manager at Jacobson’s.

“The quality of art and the balance of artists were better than previous years,” says Schreer, “which is something we’d been working for.”

The State Street area event featured 131 artists in 128 booths plus street sales by the 60-some member State Street Area Association.

Downtown and on part of E. University, the U-M Artists and Craftsmen Guild featured 700 exhibitors who "financially, came off about the same as last year,” according to A&CG coordinator Celeste Melis.

“This year’s fair was just generally a success” she says.

"Things were more relaxed. The exhibitors said people stopped more to talk and look at their works.

"People seemed to buy things not for fad reasons but because they liked them," she says.

A big plus this year, Melis says, was Ann Arbor's new street sales ordinance, which required vendors to have a city permit costing $5 plus six cents per square foot used.

That helped reduce what she termed the “poacher problem” on the fringes of the fairs that in years past has caused traffic congestion and hindered access to art booths by maverick merchants.

Ned Gershenson, resident manager at Arborland, said the shopping center’s own Free Art Fair was “not as successful as we had hoped, but it has a future."

About 40 artists displayed their works at Arborland for the four days. About 15 others set up booths and then moved elsewhere.

It was the first time Arborland held its summer art event at the same time as the other fairs and was the first time it was held separate from its merchants' sidewalk sales. That sidewalk sale, held July 8-10 was “the most successful in 10 years,” Gershenson said.

The three groups contracted said Wednesday, the first day of the fairs, was busiest. That was a switch from previous fairs, when crowds started out small and gradually grew through Saturday.

Schreer credits increased advertising and a general gain in notoriety for the fairs for the Wednesday surge.

Brunvand says fair-goers appear to have a good appreciation for quality workmanship, which may explain the flock of early-birds to grab up choicest bargains.