By Paul Rozycki
The 52ndFlint Art Fair, held Saturday and Sunday, was a tale of two cities, weather-wise — or at least a tale of two art fairs. Saturday dawned warm and sunny with nary a cloud in the sky as the fair opened, and attendance soared to near record levels. Attendance on Sunday, with cloudy, cooler weather, and increasing threats of rain? Not so much.
On Saturday, with its summery weather, attendance exceeded expectations. Visitors already were lined up at the gate as the fair opened, and the flow continued for much of the day. Fair organizers said they ran out of the 3,000 orange wristbands and had to dip into the pink wristbands they had planned to use Sunday. By most estimates it was a remarkable turnout, and at least 4000 wristbands were given out by the end to the day.
Sunday, with the threat of rain, was slower, and those working the gates were rarely rushed to pass out as many wristbands for attendees. Nonetheless, crowds were still good for much of the day, and most of the nearly 150 participating artists said their sales were solid both days.
Flint Township resident, Kay Melet, assisting with Nancy Melet-Daly’s jewelry booth, said “sales were exceptional—they were great” and that even on Sunday, while the number of visitors was down, sales were “bigger than usual.”
Painter Valentina Kostitcyna said she had “great sales” both days. Most artists had similar reactions and said they felt the Flint Art Fair was a very rewarding experience and had good sales, regardless of the weather.
Even those artists who didn’t expect to sell a lot found the Flint Art Fair a positive opportunity. University of Michigan-Flint photography lecturer Rebecca Zeiss said while her work wasn’t the kind that usually sold well at art fairs, it was a good chance to gain exposure for her work, and the college’s program.
Zeiss is working on a series of photos called “Glimpse of Imagined Dreams,” images based on traditional photographic techniques. On her website she said, “I have been interviewing people to gain an understanding of shared dreams…I am curious as to how we remember and describe our dream experiences.” She expects to have a full showing of her new work in Midland later in the year.
Flint based metal artist, Paul Wizynajtys, a regular at the fair for many years, said while sales were slower than usual Sunday, he met good people and visited with old friends.
Customers also seemed to be pleased with their purchases. Kim Klaus, who grew up in Flint, said she was happy to see a collection of Flint photos at one booth and planned to make a “Flint wall” with her new purchases at her home in the Fenton area.
Artists were juried to present their works in a wide variety of areas such as ceramics, drawing, fiber, glass, jewelry, metalwork, painting, mixed media, photography, sculpture, wood and yard decorations.
The top awards for this year’s show went to painter Gregory Frederic, first place; jeweler Katie Dirnbauer, second place; photographer Donald Bomeli, third place; and painters, Michelle Detering and Godwin Kou, honorable mentions.
Local groups also highlighted
In addition to the nearly 150 artists who were part of the event, the Flint Art Fair also gave several local groups the opportunity to show their creative works. This year the University of Michigan-Flint photography department led by Darryl Baird and Zeiss displayed their own work and the work of their students.
FIA spokespersons said they “hope to expand this venture to include all college art departments in the region over the next few years, creating a highly competitive and superior student experience and bringing the best new artists to the Flint Art Fair patrons.”
FIA Art School students also presented their work, as did the members of the Swartz Creek Area Art Guild, Art at the Market, and the Clay Club.
Visitors also had the opportunity to find a bargain, and bid on the works of many of the exhibiting artists at the well-attended silent auction booth.
Entertainment and food
In addition to the art, entertainment for the weekend was provided by, CARS 108 remote radio broadcast, Mott Community College Jazz Combo, the University of Michigan-Flint Jazz Combo, Standard Issue musical group, Classic Fox 103.9 remote, and musical group Professor Wright & Friends.
Booths from about a dozen vendors gave visitors a chance to sample a wide variety of foods, buy a Flint Art Fair t-shirt or poster or get a Henna temporary tattoo.
The Flint Art Fair has been a major fundraiser for the Friends of Modern Art at the Flint Institute of Arts since the late 1960s. It was rated one of the most “Artist Friendly” events in Michigan by Sunshine Artist Magazine and was selected as the ‘number one’ favorite summer event in Michigan by M-Live.
In addition to the fair itself, the museum was open and free during the event, and visitors had the opportunity to not only view the current exhibits, but to see the new glassblowing demonstrations in the FIA’s Hot Shop, as well as the new “Contemporary Craft Wing” of the FIA that displays the art of glasswork in many forms.
EVM staff writer and political commentator Paul Rozycki can be reached at email@example.com.