Her willingness to skip what was once the Super Bowl of art fairs is a sign of Ann Arbor's fading clout--but also of the changing role art fairs play in younger artists' business models. "I come to Ann Arbor and other venues as much for [the] 'fun factor' as for money to be made," says Keaten-Reed, who also sells her Japanese-influenced brush paintings online.
Yet most artists continue to come back. At the four street fairs the percentage of artists reapplying ranges from 75 to 95, and all report waiting lists. Several fairs are also making a special effort to encourage younger artists. The Original's New Art, New Artists program waives booth fees for a select group of college students, who are paired with established artists to learn how to present and sell their work, while South U's Emerging Artist section offers steeply discounted rates.
Younger artists tend to combine pragmatism with an enthusiasm absent in many veterans. Photographer Sooney Kadouh, thirty-one, says being involved in "the 'big daddy' of all fairs" is a way to meet his audience and "build a better brand."
Twenty-four-year-old jeweler Amber Harrison, who has lived most of her life in the Ann Arbor area, has a similar enthusiasm, noting the "adventure" of the extreme weather and an irresistible energy about the event. But Harrison, a 2012 U-M art grad who's in the Original fair, doesn't expect to earn her living on the street. She speaks of building a clientele through a "diversified portfolio" and a variety of "selling arenas."