For the first time in sev-eral years, we ven-tured to down-town Ann Arbor to check out the annual art fair. Nationally known for both its size (several hundred artisans draw half a million visitors), and the caliber of art. Other than a handful of artists selling paintings or pottery that resembled the fingerpaintings and ashtrays we made in junior high special ed art class, the pool of talent was deep and wide. Highly acclaimed photographers, sculpters, painters, wood carvers, et. al. from across the country distinguised the event from the countless other summer art fairs held in Michigan towns where local hobbyists sell wind chimes made from Budweiser bottles and air-brushed license plates. At the A2 Art Fair, you get chrome musicians from welded Harley motorcycle parts.
The crowd, as to be expected in Ann Arbor, was nearly as entertaining as the specimens on display. Tattooed artists with more piercings than a Borneo tribal chieftan displayed works ranging from abstract to modern. Roaming groups of middle-aged hippie women smelling of patchouli oil marked the fair as home turf, like packs of coyotes claiming a few acres of sagebrush desert. In front of the nearly-vacant courthouse, the nearly-always present protesters waved anti-war and legalize hemp signs. Add in a few thousand yuppies from the Detroit 'burbs and how-ever-many college students stuck in town for the summer to the eclectic mix.
One small group who felt compelled to make their viewpoint known in the crudest of terms were the pro-lifers. We don't like abortion anymore than anyone else, but walking through the streets carrying a picture of a dismembered fetus (which we had no choice but to edit), is not the way to gain public support for your cause. People were grossed out and upset- at you.
How annoying. Located next to our favorite Korean restraurant on Packard Street is a woman's health clinic. Whenever we want a bowl of spicy beebimbob and kimchee, sure enough, the protesters are walking the sidewalk with their foul signs. It accomplishes little other than making diners lose their appetite.
For the people who could stomach the nasty placards, good food was in abundance. Street fair fare is reason enough to go to these events. Although, with some of the dishes, it can be difficult to tell exactly what you're eating. On this smoky grill, skewered ground squirrels roasted over a low flame. We're guessing that's what the delicious little bastards were. Sometimes, it's better not to ask and just enjoy.
Street performers helped keep the collective mood light and jeery. Guitarists strummed away and jugglers juggled. A trinidad drum band banged away on Liberty Street while a jazz pianist played under the EMU public radio tent near the Diag.
One "street artist" spray-painted himself gray and stood motionless on a platform for minutes on end. He had a small crowd mesmorized and a bowl full of money in front of him. We didn't quite grasp the artistic merit of his performance, proving art is indeed within the eye of the beholder.
Posted by River Rant at 7/21/2006 10:00:00 PM