Shadow Art Fair: ‘One Day, 40 Artists and 9,000 Gallons of Beer’

By Bryan K. Alfaro | THE EASTERN ECHO
Added July 19, 2012 at 5:02 pm

Shadow Art Fair 2012 promotional poster. (Photo courtesy of Shadow Art Fair / July 18, 2012)

The Shadow Art Fair, a juried event for local artists to exhibit and sell their works, is returning to Ypsilanti’s Corner Brewery July 21 from noon until midnight, and will feature local live music, a specially-crafted Shadow Brew or two, short films will be shown in the beer garden courtesy of the Ann Arbor Film Festival and several comedians will perform between musical acts.

Shadow Art Fair was founded in 2006 by the Michigan Design Militia, a group of artists who consigned at the Henrietta Fahrenheit shop before it closed its brick-and-mortar location.

The fair’s website said, “[Michigan Design Militia] decided to get together to see if we could help each other and the local community of independent artists, by sharing our resources and experiences. At some point in our meetings, the plan was hatched for a Shadow Art Fair.”

MIDMI member and fair co-organizer Mark Maynard said the Shadow Art Fair is better than the Ann Arbor Art Fair because “it sucks less.”

“We don’t necessarily take the things that are going to sell best, which I think is good and bad; it complicates things. There are good businesses that would sell a s—-load of stuff at Shadow Art Fair, but we don’t accept them because they’re doing stuff that’s similar to what other people are doing, or it’s stuff that we’ve seen before in past years,” Maynard said.

He said the organizers are more concerned with people having the opportunity to speak about art and interact with artists who are approachable.

“I think that’s what separates us: The bottom line is completely different. We [the organizers] do not care if we make a dime out of this and none of us are depending on this for our livelihood. We’ve all got day jobs,” Maynard said.

He said the organizers look for vendors who want to interact with the crowd, so people come away from the event feeling they’ve experienced something new and unique.

“Some sort of opportunity to exchange information or talk to somebody on a different level than you normally would, that’s more important to us than all the f——— T-shirts and soap you could sell,” Maynard said.

The cover charge for Shadow Art Fair is two cents per person, and beginning in 2008 the proceeds from the entry fee has been added to a portion of the sales of Corner’s special Shadow Brews and given to local artists as art-related grants. Additional grant information is available online.

Fair co-organizer Melissa Dettloff said, “We started the arts grant a couple of years ago and they offered to contribute a dollar per sale of the Shadow Brew, which is usually $5 or $6, toward the art grant and that was just them being supportive which is nice.”

Corner Brewery’s event manager Bari Simon said this year’s Shadow Brew will be a Belgian-style blackberry blonde ale.

Dettloff said the organizers aren’t concerned so much with filling all 40 artist slots at the fair, but look more to quality over quantity.

“I think having less tables up is probably going to be a good thing in terms of the space, and it just happened to be the number that we accepted,” she said. “We don’t want to fill it out just because we feel we have to. We want to pick the things we think are the best and most interesting.”

Dettloff said it’s nice to hear people talk about how the fair has been an inspiration to them over the years.

“I appreciate that people are interested in it and it’s always fun. It’s a good opportunity for people to come together and talk, and creative people to meet each other and maybe collaborate in the future,” Dettloff said.

She said they try and strike a balance between the more traditional vendors with goods for sale, and ones that offer interactive and slightly weirder interactions.

“You can go to the brewery and have an experience instead of exchanging money for an object. So we try to have a mix of that, because we’re interested in both,” Dettloff said.

She said one of her favorite experiences from a previous Shadow Art Fair was the hugs and gumbo booth she participated in, where patrons could get a bowl of vegan gumbo and a hug for $5.

“That was pretty fun. I hugged like 30 people that day,” Dettloff said.

She said this year’s vendors will include perfume and jewelry booths, a green screen video artist, a stencil artist and ceramic and metal workers.

“I feel like there’s a lot of different mediums represented this time, which is nice,” Dettloff said.

The fair’s website listed some previous vendor projects such as a shadow puppet show, pictures with a creepy Santa, a hair-do station, a foot photo booth and a giant pooping cat.

“The kind of art we offer is different than your typical art fair, so we want the experience to be different too. Beer plus art, equals fun,” the website said.

Simon said Shadow Art Fair is unique, in that it’s very strange and interesting all at once.

“Booking obscure, eclectic bands and DJs, and adding interactive pieces like an interviewing booth and a giant monster that you can reach into and grab random stuff.  It’s not your typical ‘walk around and shop’ art fair,” she said.

Dettloff said one of the main original purposes for creating the Shadow Art Fair was accessibility for local artists to display their works.

“There is gallery art and the [Ann Arbor] Art Fair and all of that, which is like a certain level of art, and has a more difficult entry point and higher booth fees. Versus the Shadow Art Fair which is very approachable and very affordable, for someone who just has a weird idea they want to try out on people,” Dettloff said.

The event is held every July at the Corner Brewery, located at 720 Norris St., which typically has seven to 10 exclusive beers on tap and will also have one or two specialty brews available for the fair. Corner Brewery requires people under 21 be accompanied by a parent until 9 p.m., after which no one under 21 is allowed in the brewery.

Related Material:

Eastern Echo article archive: Shadow Art Fair: ‘One Day, 40 Artists and 9,000 Gallons of Beer’

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