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September 05, 2006 - Image 45

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The Michigan Daily, 2006-09-05

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New Student Edition 2006 - The Michigan Daily - 5D

Ann Arbor
Art Fair 2006
July brings blistering dog days, summer-term
classes and the blessing - or is it bane? - of Ann
Arborites: the Street Art Fair.
One Daily Arts editor weighs in on its significance.
The tents are gone and the streets clear. It no longer takes 15 minutes to
move between the State and Michigan Theaters. Ann Arbor's Street Art Fair
is gone, tightly packed away in innumerable SUVs and trucks.
Townies and history of art majors love nothing more than to shut them-
selves away in bars, nursing a pint and muttering over the fair's inanity.
Why does this fair instill such disdain? The first argument is how the name
is a misnomer. Wander into the wrong bar and you'll hear "Street Kitsch Fair'
"Street Crap Fair" and the like with the occasional expletive. The implication
is thatthe displayed works are in no way "fine art"that it's a misrepresentation
of a serious profession. Clocks with horrifically cute cat motifsjade and ivory
animals, garden gnomes ... the word is decorative, craft, kitsch.
And then there's the crowd: SUV strollers, endless sarongs and enough
$200 hiking sandals and zucchini nut muffins to rival L.A. (maybe). It's an
annual reminder that Ann Arbor's classic hippy foundation is not quite so
pure. Yuppie genes have polluted the bloodline, and we don't like seeing it.
Honestly, what do these aforementioned arguments get at? To wax theo-
retical, is the production of art - regardless of definition, regardless of
demographic - ever inane, hopeless or wrong? For thousands, the answer is
obvious. It can't be argued that this fair is evil without undermining the truth
that art is one of the most important aspects of any culture. Federal money for
the arts is next to non-existent. I say congratulations to those who put their art
out in the open in a country that for the most part doesn't seem to care.
Then there's the all-too-common argument that "the art fair is the unholy
union of decorative arts and capitalism." Yes, there is a lot of overpriced crap
out there - there's also a lot of overpriced crap in galleries across the country.
But price and quality are as wildly subjective as one can imagine, and the dis-
tinctions one makes will be as different as the next. The vast majority of our
country - liberal or conservative - could not tell you how Jackson Pollock
changed the face of art or that Angell Hall's Doric columns are "masculine."
And that absolutely doesn't matter.
Should someone not "in the know" be censured for finding aesthetic plea-
sure in purely decorative art? You tell me. It is pretentious and condescending
to think so. Personally, I wouldn't mind if the front yard of my future house
has a bit of flare to it.
Maybe the fair needs a name change - that's a decent argument. Con-
demning the people the fair attracts ignores not only Ann Arbor's rich
tradition of large, awkward gatherings (um, Hash Bash?), but is also a
denial of the fact that our wonderful town has a good streak of the insuf-
ferable yuppie in her. But more importantly, it implies an elitist, intellec-
tual monopoly on what constitutes "art." There are too many comparisons
to be made with that in mind.
You might feel that the "art" is generally bad and the traffic terrible (no one
will argue that),but Ann Arbor's Street Art Fair is well-intentioned and has a
good heart - and it's only four days. We can handle it.
- This article originally ran Jul. 24, 2006.

lawastm

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